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Arizona to Implement Innovative Dust Storm Detection Program

A new program being launched by the Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT) is set to try and tackle a big problem in the Grand Canyon State – driving through dust storms.

To improve road safety during dust storms, the Arizona DOT is beginning work on a sensor alert system set to detect dust storms and immediately notify motorists. The $12.8 million project is focused on setting up sensors that detect the dust instantly, setting off a chain reaction to roadside signs along the interstate to let people know about the upcoming limited visibility. The program is being started on a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson near Casa Grande, an area well-known for dust storm formation.

Monsoon season, running between July and September, is typically the trigger for dust storm-producing thunderstorms. Cool ‘outflow’ winds from thunderstorms (particularly in their dying, ‘occluding’ phase) create strong winds that kick up walls of dust, limiting visibility to sometimes as little as less than a quarter of a mile.

dust storm

Dust storms are considered to be the third-deadliest weather-related phenomenon in Arizona, blamed for 155 deaths and over 1,300 injuries reported on Arizona highways between 1955 and 2011.

Arizona is working with transportation departments in California, Texas and New Mexico as well on this project.

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Chris Bianchi – Source: Arizona Department of Transportation

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