Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!

Where will you be when the dust settles?

Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!
Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!

That’s a question the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is asking motorists this year as another summer monsoon season begins.

Each year, a variety of weather related dangers affect Arizona, New Mexico, and southwest Texas, especially from late spring into early autumn. Through a collaborative effort between National Weather Service offices serving the states of Arizona and New Mexico, which includes offices located in Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, El Paso/Santa Teresa, and Midland/Odessa, the time period from June 15th through September 30th has been defined as “The Monsoon”.

Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!
Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!

For the fourth consecutive year, ADOT is rolling out its “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” dust storm public awareness campaign in an ongoing effort to educate drivers about the year-round threat of dust storms as monsoon season officially began in Arizona last week. Dust storms pose a serious public safety risk because they can strike out of nowhere. Motorists can protect themselves if they plan ahead and know the safe actions to take when the dust hits.

This year, ADOT has created new television and radio public-education announcements that ask drivers if they know what to do if they get caught in a sudden dust storm event. The new TV public service announcement depicts a young driver following all the safety recommendations when she sees a dust storm while driving along a highway.

Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!
Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!

ADOT’s mission is to provide useful and memorable safety information to drivers before they get caught in a low-visibility dust storm. This year, the agency’s top recommendation is to avoid driving into a wall of dust at all costs.

“As the monsoon arrives, this year we’re asking drivers to do the smart thing, the safe thing, and plan ahead for possible blowing dust and limited visibility along the highway,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski.

“It’s better to alter travel plans rather than attempting to drive through dust storms. It’s a risk you don’t have to take.”

Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!
Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!

Dust storms develop quickly and dust-related crashes can occur, particularly along the Interstate 10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson. To advise drivers of approaching storms, ADOT employs a range of strategies—including electronic highway message boards, social and traditional media, communication with ADOT staff, and law enforcement officers in the field, television, and radio advertising, and close coordination with partnering agencies—to keep information flowing to motorists.

Please visit pullasidestayalive.org for the new public-education video, along with videos from past years. The website also includes a safety tip sheet.

Tips For Drivers Who Encounter a Dust Storm

Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!
Where Will You Be When The Dust Settles? Pull Aside, Stay Alive!

Avoid driving into or through a dust storm.

If you encounter a dust storm, check traffic immediately around your vehicle (front, back, and to the side) and begin slowing down.

Do not wait until poor visibility makes it difficult to safely pull off the roadway—do it as soon as possible. Completely exit the highway if you can.

Do not stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane; look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.

Stop your vehicle in a position ensuring it is a safe distance from the main roadway and away from where other vehicles may travel.

Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers.

Set your emergency brake and take your foot off the brake.

Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass.

Drivers of high-profile vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds in high wind.

A driver’s alertness and safe driving ability are always the top factors in preventing crashes. It is your responsibility to avoid distracted or impaired driving.

Worth Pondering…

Sand from the desert

An oppressive wind blowing

Good grief, pull aside

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Wind Gust Tips Over RVs

Wind gusts can and do blow over recreational vehicles when parked in extremely windy locations.

Campers are tipped over after an apparent tornado moved through Northampton County, Virginia
Campers are tipped over after an apparent tornado moved through Northampton County, Virginia (Photo: Holly Taylor image)

In an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing I offered suggestions on dealing with high winds when driving on the highway or parked in an RV park or campground.

At what wind speed should you be concerned? RVs have been known to weather 75 mph wind gusts without tipping over, but the “rock-a-bye-baby” effects proved intensely worrisome to RV occupants.

If you are concerned about the potential effects of the wind, consider parking the nose of your RV into the wind. The less surface area the wind blows against, the better.

The pressure of the wind on your vehicle is called “wind load” and you can decrease it immensely by pointing the front of your RV into the wind as opposed to having the wind blow across the length of your RV.

For the average size RV in a 60 mph wind, the wind load is 2967 pounds when the side of the RV is to the wind. However, when the RV’s nose is to the wind, the wind load decreases to 1032 pounds. You face less than half the wind load simply by pointing your nose into the wind.

While changing campsites may not always be practical, retracting the slideouts that face the wind is a simpler alternative that will at least lessen the wind’s effect on slide toppers.

Some people had to cut from their trailers after a microburst overturned several of them at an RV park in Buckeye, Arizona.
Some people had to cut from their trailers after a microburst overturned several of them at an RV park in Buckeye, Arizona. (Photo: CBS 5 News)

Ohio: High Winds Flip RVs

American Press reports that one man was injured when strong storms overturned recreational vehicles at an Ohio campground. The line of storms ripped through the Walnut Lake campground in Jeffersonville between Columbus and Cincinnati on July 14. Media reports say the injured man was in an RV that flipped several times in the high straight-line winds. Interstate 71 was also closed because of downed power lines and trees in that area. Traffic backed up for miles as crews cleared the highway.

Ohio: RVs Damaged As Storm Downs Tree

WKBN-TV reports that residents of an RV park near Lake Milton are cleaning up after a storm blew through the area. The localized storm hit about 8:30 p.m. on July 14. Trees landed on top of an RV and a trailer and another toppled over onto a tractor at the Lake Milton RV Resort in Berlin Center, which sits south of the lake on the river. Mahoning County EMA Director Dennis O’Hara said the damage resembles that of a localized microburst.

Idaho: RV Damaged AS Storm Downs Trees, Knocks Out Power

Coeur d’Alene Press reports that strong thunderstorms which moved through North Idaho produced numerous downed trees and power outages. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office reported a high volume of calls for downed trees, blocked roadways, and compromised power lines on July 23. As of 8 p.m., only one injury was reported, the result of a tree falling onto an RV at the Silverwood RV Park.

Virginia: Two Campers Dead & 20 Injured At Campground

Delmara Now reports that Virginia State Police has confirmed two deaths and at least 20 injured in the severe storm that swept through the Cherrystone Campground in Cheriton on the morning of July 24. Those injured were transported to nearby hospitals.

Emergency personnel units from Accomack and Northampton counties responded to multiple traumatic injuries at the campground, police said. Injuries reported included a priority one head injury. An injured child was transported to a Hampton Roads hospital.

Just before 9 a.m., there was a report seeking help at Cherrystone Campground, where there reports of overturned campers and a fallen tree on a tent. Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital is treating 26 patients from the Cherrystone Campground tornado disaster.

High Winds Can Damage Your RV
High Winds Can Damage Your RV (Credit: RGJ)

Arizona: Microburst Topples trailers

WSMV-TV reports that at least 15 trailers at the Leaf Verde RV Park in Buckeye were toppled during a furious microburst on the evening of July 31. Three people suffered minor injuries, and some park residents said some trailers had to be cut open to get people out.

Most of the trailers were vacant because it’s a seasonal park and many residents left for the hot summer. Some trees were also uprooted by the storm. The return of the monsoon will also bring a cooling trend over the weekend with highs reaching only the upper 90s.

Worth Pondering…

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not
—Anon

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High Winds Can Damage Your RV

High winds can be unsettling, whether you’re driving an RV or parked in an RV park or campground.

High Winds Can Damage Your RV (Source: newsnet5.com)
High Winds Can Damage Your RV (Source: newsnet5.com)

Winds can be unpredictable, loud, and damaging. Before you take to the road, check the weather reports for the areas you’ll be driving through. If wind gusts or high winds could occur, you want to be aware of it so you can deal with the situation properly.

Winds can be deadly. They can overturn your RV, your tow vehicle, and cause major damage to them. In severe cases, you may become trapped or separated from your RV which leads to a handful of other dangerous situations.

If you’re driving when high winds or gusts occurs, you’ll know immediate because you’ll feel it.

The best thing to do when wind is hitting an RV from the side is to drive slower.

Do not speed during a windstorm. You never know when the wind will change direction severely affecting your ability to control your RV.

Reduce your speed when high winds occur. The faster you travel, the greater effect the wind will have on your vehicle. When wind gusts are 30 mph and you’re traveling at a speed of 45 mph, you’ll create a vacuum effect of a 75 mph wind gust around your vehicle.

If winds are severe and you no longer feel safe driving, wait it out by pulling well off to the side of the highway. If you stop too close to the road, a severe gust could move another vehicle into the path of your RV. Be aware of the traffic around you before you park to wait out a windstorm. Be even more cautious in the event of blowing dust or sand.

 

dust storm
An approaching dust storm over Phoenix. (Source: gawker.com)

Dust storms that turn day into night are a hazard to drivers. Dust storms can strike with little warning. Blinding, choking dust can quickly reduce visibility, causing accidents that may involve chain collisions, creating massive pileups.

Wind can be an issue even on an otherwise pleasant day. In many regions of the U.S. and Canada a fast moving front can produce substantially strong winds seemingly at anytime and in any season. Unexpected high winds and gusts can occur anywhere and at any time.

These winds can cause difficulty for the driver to maintain one’s own lane especially when driving an Interstate highway. Wind gusts, as opposed to a steady wind state, can amplify the problem greatly.

Numerous accidents occur as a result of driving in high wind conditions. These range from damaging a mirror to side-swiping a passing semi-truck and being struck by a flying object to leaving the road due to loss of control.

Know your vehicle and control level in windy conditions.  If you are driving with white knuckles or become nervous, you have passed your driving comfort level. Slow it down.

As a general rule, reduce speed by 10 percent when wind conditions are between 15 and 20 mph and a further 10 percent for every 10 mph over 20. However, do not drive at a speed less than the minimum posted. If such a speed is warranted due to wind, it is time to get off the road and find a camping site.

All RV’s are capable of being upset by the wind force. Fortunately, in general, it takes a considerable wind force, far more than you would think to flip a trailer or motorhome.

If high winds or inclement weather ever have you concerned while driving or towing your RV, pull off the road and wait it out. It’s simply not worth jeopardizing your safety and the safety of your rig.

High Winds Can Damage Your RV (Credit: RGJ)
High Winds Can Damage Your RV (Credit: RGJ)

Only travel if absolutely necessary. It sounds obvious, but the best way to avoid having your RV tip over in high winds is to avoid driving in those conditions. Putting aside the damage to your RV in the event of an accident, the risk of injury to you and your passengers safety, it is simply not worth the risk.

Worth Pondering…

Whether the weather be fine,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not
—Anon

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Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast RV Park

A strong storm system barreled through several Mississippi Gulf Coast communities yesterday evening (Monday, April 14), damaging and destroying numerous recreational vehicles in a campground, downing trees and power lines, and cutting electricity to some communities.

Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi's Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: Blake Kaplan/AP)
Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: Blake Kaplan/AP)

One of the hardest hit areas in the region was Santa Maria RV Park in Gautier; about two dozen trailers and campers were knocked off their blocks, overturned, or totally destroyed, and two people were treated at the hospital for injuries.

The roads leading to the campground were littered with debris, and the street lights were out.

A severe thunderstorm warning had been in effect in advance of a strong cold front moving into the region.

The National Weather Service didn’t think it was a tornado, meteorologist Robert Ricks told the (Biloxi) Sun Herald.

“It was straight-line winds of about 50 mph and none of the RVs were tied down,” said Ricks.

“In talking with emergency management personnel, there were no power lines down. It appears to be because of the straight-line winds in an RV park configuration without tie-downs.”

Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi's Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: Tim Isbell/AP)
Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: Tim Isbell/AP)

The police chief in nearby Moss Point, Keith Davis, told WLOX-TV there were downed power lines and trees there. He said one power line caught fire but it was quickly extinguished.

First responders quickly scoured the campground searching for anyone injured or stuck inside their RVs.

“We’re just looking at the damages, assessing what’s happened,” said the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Area Coordinator Carolyn Nelson.

“We don’t know exactly how much damage we have yet, but have at least 25 trailers so far

Red Cross volunteers were also on hand providing assistance to victims.”

Protecting Your RV During Extreme Wind

I think we can all agree that dealing with a major storm is NOT a pleasant situation.

Similar incidents have been known to happen, especially when parked in extremely windy locations and during severe storms.

Many RV owners have asked the question, “At what wind speed should I be concerned?”

RVs have been known to weather 75 mph wind speeds without tipping over; however, variables such as weight of the RV must be considered.

Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi's Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: WLOX-TV)
Storm Destroys RVs at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast RV Park (Credit: WLOX-TV)

The “rock-a-bye-baby” effects are intensely worrisome to most RV occupants. If you ever feel concerned about the wind, the following two recommendations should be considered.

Park Your Nose into the Wind

The less surface area the wind his hitting, the better. The pressure of the wind on your vehicle is called “wind load” and you can decrease it immensely by pointing the front of your RV into the wind as opposed to having the wind blow across the length of your RV.

For the average size RV in a 60 mph wind, the wind load is 2967 pounds when the side of the RV is to the wind. However, when the RV’s nose is to the wind, the wind load decreases to 1032 pounds. You face less than half the wind load simply by pointing your nose into the wind.

Extend your Stabilizers

Better safe than sorry. If the wind is causing you to lose sleep, simply extend those handy stabilizers and fret no longer. Stabilizers are an easy fix for a parked RV that is beginning to sway.

Worth Pondering…

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

—Jimmy Dean

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Wind Flips High Profile Vehicles

Strong gusty winds caused problems for RVers, truckers, electrical crews, and even buildings in the Dakotas for the past two days (Wednesday and Thursday, October 17 and 18), has finally moved on.

South Dakota wind warning. (Source: valleynewslive.com)

According to the National Weather Service, strong northwest winds of 50 mph—gusting to 70 mph—persisted across South Dakota yesterday.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation advised motorists that extremely high winds were making travel difficult across the state, especially for high-profile vehicles such as semis, trucks, buses, and SUVs.

Motorists were advised to use extreme caution as many semis and vehicles tipped over on and along many roadways, especially in central and western South Dakota.

Gusting winds pushed trees onto several highways and blew down power lines and poles, causing temporary delays until highway maintenance crews arrived to clear the roads, according to an Associated Press report.

In the Black Hills area the Needles Highway was closed due to falling trees. Winding roads with a high number of pine-beetle infested trees were the areas of greatest concern.

South Dakota wind warning. (Source: valleynewslive.com)

KOTA reports that 77-mile-an-hour wind gusts broke off the top of a 40-foot electrical pole in Fort Pierre, and wind flipped a recreational vehicle at Fort Randall Dam.

Scattered power outages were reported across South Dakota and North Dakota. There was a power outage in the Black Hawk area around 2 a.m. Thursday but was restored around 3.

A building under construction in the New England North Dakota area collapsed. Tumbleweeds in Dickinson piled up as high as some buildings. Hess Corp. shut down some oil rig activity in the region.

“There is a low pressure system off to our east, and it’s creating a tight pressure gradient across the area. With a tighter pressure gradient, you get stronger winds,” meteorologist Katie Pojorlie of the National Weather Service office in Rapid City told the Associated Press.

As of about 3 p.m. Wednesday, the highest wind gust measured in western South Dakota blew across Union Center weather station at 72 mph, she said.

Downtown Rapid City logged a 68 mph wind gust, while Rapid City Regional Airport saw a 66 mph gust and 44 mph sustained winds, Pojorlie said.

A cold front also rolled in with the wind Tuesday night, dropping temperatures from the 60s and 70s to the 40s and 50s, Pojorlie said.

Sometime before 9 a.m. Wednesday, the wind is believed to have pushed a tree across a power line and on top of a house, Pojorlie said. The fire department responded, although no fire was started as a result of the fallen power line, she said. The fire crew waited until Black Hills Power arrived to handle it.

South Dakota wind warning. (Source: valleynewslive.com)

About 3:30 a.m., a small fire started on top of a power pole along East Philadelphia Street, and embers were falling from it, Colby said. A fire crew responded to keep the fire confined to the pole and waited for Black Hills Power to arrive to put out the fire, she said.

A fire is one of the department’s biggest concerns during a high wind event, Colby said.

“The wind will spread that fire quickly. It makes it very difficult to control,” Colby said.

Worth Pondering…
On the fourteenth day of April in 1935
There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky…
From Oklahoma City to the Arizona Line
Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande
It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
We thought it was our judgment, we thought it was our doom…
—Woody Guthrie, from his song, The Great Dust Storm

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