Dealing with dust storms: ADOT holds workshop for state leaders

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- It won't be long before the dust starts to fly once again. Monsoon season typically starts in June and state leaders are hoping to get ahead by discussing ways to detect dust storms sooner -- and help make drivers safer when the dust rolls in.

The stretch of Arizona desert along Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson is stunningly beautiful, but that can and does quickly change.

Dust storms blow up with little warning and deadly crashes can be the result.

The challenges of warning drivers about blowing dust were one of the focuses of the 2019 Dust Storm Workshop in Coolidge.

Arizona Department of Transportation staff was in attendance, talking about the office's I-10 dust detection plan, which will be up and running this fall.

"Half of the crashes occur around milepost 212 and 214 just south of Eloy. We're focusing on that area," said ADOT's Tom Herrmann.

The plan is to use long-range proven radar technology to look into the desert and detect approaching storms, says Herrmann, adding that they will use short-range radar along I-10.

"With short-range radar right along the freeway and about every mile, we'll double up in areas where we know historically there are the most crashes," said Herrmann. "We'll use that to identify what the visibility is along the freeway."

Electronic message boards will be added to alert drivers early of approaching dust. The new system uses variable speed limit signs. It can drop the speed limit if needed.

The cost of the dust detection center is roughly $8 million.