Multiple Deaths During the Recent I-90 Dust Storm: Why it Happened and How Such Tragedies Can be Prevented.

From the Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Dr. Cliff Mass

Multiple Deaths During the Recent I-90 Dust Storm: Why it Happened and How Such Tragedies Can be Prevented.

On Friday evening around 4:30 PM, strong winds ahead of powerful thunderstorms pushed across central Montana, resulting in localized duststorms in which visibility declined to near zero in seconds.

As s result, at one location, (Hardin, Montana) a massive pile-up of cars and trucks occurred, resulting in six deaths and many injuries.

Picture courtesy of Jose Strickland

Such massive accident chains during dust storms are not rare. For example, several have occurred in Arizona and eastern Oregon/Washington, such as a 38-car crash near Prosser, WA in October 2003 (my NW weather book goes into this event and others)

We understand the origin of such events, and as I will describe below, there are concrete steps, including new technology and meteorological guidance, that can hopefully reduce the frequency of such roadside carnage.

The Montana Event

The event on Friday occurred on Interstate 90, just east of Hardin, Montana (red arrow on map)

That afternoon, a line of very strong thunderstorms formed over the eastern slopes of the Rockies and moved eastward into the plains.  In fact, the thunderstorms were well predicted hours ahead of time by the National Weather Service operational HRRR model (see the forecast of the simulated radar image for 4  PM Mountain Time).   The National Weather Service had thunderstorm warnings out for the time.

Radar reflectivity forecast by the HRRR model for 4 PM Mountain Time

The actual radar imagery showed the strong, thunderstorm cells….but more importantly… indicated a strong gust front pushing out ahead of the thunderstorm line.     Gust fronts, which are associated with strong wind acceleration and gusts, are produced by the cool, downdraft air produced by thunderstorms (see graphic below).  

Gust fronts often are visible in radar imagery because the cold, strong flow in the gust front can push air upwards, producing clouds and some showers that radar can sense.

The National Weather Service radar imagery below shows the situation.  The white star idicates the accident site and the white arrow shows the location of the gust front, behind which winds gusted to 50-65 mph.

At 2036 UTC (2:36 MDT)–about two hours before the incident– you can see the line of thunderstorms and the gust front is evident by the thin line (see arrow).

At 4:20 MDT, just as the crashes began, the gust front had reached Hardin.   The radar provided plenty of warning!

Weather Service radars are Doppler radars, which can observe winds as well as precipitation intensity (which is known as reflectivity).   Below is the Doppler wind imagery at 3:58 PM.  Wow.  You can see the gust front clearly with winds of 36-50 knots.

How strong did the winds get in and behind the gust front?   Some surface stations reported over 60 mph (see max winds that day below)!

So why was there a dust storm?  Because there were plowed fields all around I-90 (see a google ground image below at the accident site)

Winds over roughly 20-30 mph are very effective in picking up dust and dirt from exposed soils, which are found all over the west due to the massive agricultural operations in our region.   And dryland farming areas (such as eastern WA and central/eastern Montana) are very vulnerable to strong wind erosion of soils.

Preventing Such Chain Accidents in Dust Storms

Most of these kinds of accident chains happen the same way.    Folks are driving fast and too close together.   The lead vehicle in a pack hits a region of reduced visibility and hits the brakes.  And then the other vehicles plow into that vehicle and each other.

So more responsible driving is certainly necessary.

But there is more.  We can warn of such events.   Not only were the thunderstorms well forecast but our surface observing stations and weather radars were picking up the wind event HOURS before the disaster.


Imagine if we created an environmental warning app that could be loaded on everyone’s smartphone.   The phone would know one’s location, and warn you that very strong winds were about to hit you—with an explicit caution about dust storms. 

We could do this.  And such an app could also warn of other conditions, such as ice on the roadway, flooding on roadways, and much more.  Call it the “Driver Protector App.” 

I proposed to the Washington Department of Transportation that we create such an app for Washington State drivers, but they were not interested.  Perhaps one day someone else (maybe Google or Microsoft) might consider doing this.  An app that is constantly watching for environmental dangers in your location and giving you a timely warning.  We could do it.  Could save many lives.

Climate Change?

Unbelievably, some folks in the media, descending to the netherworld of journalism, have claimed that this terrible accident is a symptom of climate change.

Such claims have no basis in truth, science, or anything else.  The area of the dust storm is NOT in any kind of drought (see below).  And there is NO evidence of increasingly extreme daily precipitation over the region during the past several decades, which might be a sign of global warming/climate change.  I could say more about such journalism, but this a family-friendly blog.

The outline area indicated the relevant Montana country.

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Alexy Scherbakoff
July 17, 2022 6:10 pm

It’s mostly due to the way people drive.

Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
July 17, 2022 9:15 pm

Yeah that picture of the recreational van attached to the back of the truck says it all.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
July 18, 2022 4:03 am

I don’t know about the USA, or anywhere else for that matter, but driving in the UK and France has convinced me that 97% of the human race can’t anticipate more than about 3 seconds into the future in any activity, be it driving or in Boris Johnson’s case telling the truth/a lie.
Some people throw caution to the wind and never bother to get it back.

Jim G.
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
July 18, 2022 9:40 pm

Here in the USA, there is a “2-second” rule.
Don’t follow any closer than 2 seconds to the vehicle in front of you.

Unfortunately, at 45mph, it 2 seconds leaves enough room for another car.
And someone always pulls in between you.

Perhaps it’s really more of a guideline.

Reply to  Jim G.
July 18, 2022 11:04 pm

I would suggest more time is needed of you are one who is going to text and drive, in particular, or reach for a cell phone. Also, if you are getting older.
I know my reaction time is not what it was when I was younger. No, I never text and drive and do know where my phone is without looking, though, we got a new car last year and I can answer it from the steering wheel which is a great improvement– if I can remember where the button is on the steering wheel. 🙁

Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
July 18, 2022 11:05 pm

Somewhat agree but have you ever been in a dust storm? It’s a rough experience.

July 17, 2022 6:18 pm

I live 40 miles from Hardin Montana. The area that this occurred in is high plains shortgrass prairie, interspersed with large areas of dryland farming. This area is frequently hit with high winds In all seasons yet blinding dust storms are not common even in drought. What contributed to this event was after a cool and wet spring farmers had recently cut an abundant hay crop that exposed the surface to rapid drying in the hottest part of the summer. The lack of grass cover provided the wind access to the surface layer to pick up substantial amounts of dust.

Tom Halla
July 17, 2022 6:20 pm

It was like a Tule Fog chain reaction crash in California’s Central Valley.

Philip CM
July 17, 2022 6:26 pm

I’ll be alright. I’ll make it. This is fine. Nothin’ to worry about. What! “”CRASH”” I’m not gonna make it. Damn global warming. 😁

July 17, 2022 6:55 pm

I drive a fair amount, sometime 2KMi/month and I’m retired so it’s recreational. One thing that really irks me is that these super sophisticated car radio/audio systems don’t include the weather radio bands. I have two boats with four radios, all of them have the US & Canadian weather bands. And to build on Cliff’s comment we get weather/Amber/etc. warnings on our cell phones now,…but you have to have cell coverage. There are lots of places, like the UP of Michigan, that don’t have cell coverage, and I’ll bet the western plains are the same.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Yooper
July 18, 2022 4:53 pm

Memories of Ye Olde Days – “Can you hear me now?”

Rick C
July 17, 2022 7:33 pm

I have a free weather app called MyRadar on my phone and it will send me alerts like “thunder storm in your area in 15 minutes”. It seems like the technology Cliff is advocating is already pretty well developed. It would be better than “weather radio” since it can track your phone’s location and give quite precise alerts. The MyRadar alerts are text pop-ups proceeded by an audible beep, so not ideal for driving. But automated voice alerts would be useful.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Rick C
July 17, 2022 7:50 pm

I tend to use my eyes when driving and can see a storm brewing and drive appropriate to the conditions. I don’t drink coffee or eat while driving or watch tv. I drive over the speed limit if conditions permit.

Reply to  Alexy Scherbakoff
July 18, 2022 11:11 pm

That’s all good but now having driven in dust storms, they are on you faster than a swarm of bees with little to no warning even when your eyes are on the road which, like you, mine are. I love storms to include dust storms but I never, ever want to drive in one ever again. The several I’ve been in are terrifying. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.

Reply to  Rick C
July 18, 2022 3:47 am

I also have the MyRadar app and it is the best one I’ve found so far. I like it better than Zoom Earth because it has a Fronts layer that shows weather fronts. The alerts it gives are location specific and pretty darn accurate.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Yooper
July 18, 2022 4:14 am

I’ll give it a try.

July 17, 2022 7:34 pm

If it is bad news, then climate change
was involved in some way.
And don’t you forget it.

July 17, 2022 8:10 pm

In Arizona the advice we are given is when the conditions get bad, pull off to the side of the road, turn off your lights and keep your foot off the brake. If you don’t do this, the driver behind you will see your tail lights and steer toward them because they may not know what they are seeing. Now, most of the dust comes off a farmers field but back in the 70s there was so much construction that much of it came off construction sites. Today there are ridged rules about keeping the dust under control so that type of dust storm is much rarer.

Reply to  Dena
July 18, 2022 11:13 pm

Dena, I mentioned that, too, but I did forget to mention the brake lights. Yes, turn off your lights and don’t touch the brake lights, either. Good advice.

Len Werner
July 17, 2022 8:46 pm

Anyone thinking some modern climate change is responsible for this calamity might want to read up on the Navajo Sandstone and consider what kind of climate deposited that. Its thickness is up to some 2,000 feet and areal extent over 100,000 square miles–all wind-blown sand. How does that compare to this Montana dust storm?

If you’re one of those who ‘has never seen this before’–it’s because you haven’t looked, or have and not understood what you were seeing. It wasn’t hiding.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Len Werner
July 18, 2022 4:40 am

It’s worse than I can remember! Doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before many, many times you’ve just been lucky.

The UK MSM are going mad on the UK’s Highest Ever Temperature. No caveats about since accurate measurements, or even accurate measurements began. Certainly no mention that we only got accurate measurements 150 years ago, and measurements every 10 seconds in the last couple of decades. It irritates the hell out of me.

Reply to  Len Werner
July 18, 2022 10:15 am

There’s 3 ft of wind-blown dust/silt (loess) in spots around the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland dating back to the short time of the Younger Dryas. Now there’s some dust-storms in a place one would not expect.

July 17, 2022 9:12 pm

Problem with a government app like that is they will track your location 24/7 then send you a bill for your miles, and give law enforcement alerts when too many Republicans or CCW holders are concentrating in the same vicinity.

If its a private app then I will be getting non-stop nudges for restaurants, motels, and mystery spots in my vicinity.

Chris Hanley
July 17, 2022 9:12 pm

“The Dust Bowl was a period of severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies during the 1930s” (Wiki).

… some folks in the media, descending to the netherworld of journalism, have claimed that this terrible accident is a symptom of climate change …

Montana Crash leaves six dead as dust storms could get worse

Following that twisted logic empirical evidence suggests there is no safe concentration level of atmospheric CO2, it can cause dust storms even at ~ 305 PPM.

July 17, 2022 9:42 pm

Yeah climate change … never happened before 🙂
comment image

John Hultquist
July 17, 2022 10:02 pm

On a lighter note, driving across I-90 near Ritzville one can see 20 or 30 “dust devils” at one time. They form and lift the fine brown soil into the air. Then one is gone and another forms. Mile after mile. Search up eastern washington dust devils.

Washington State has “apps” that warn of wildfires. Two that I got were so vague they were worthless and irritating. The incidents were so far away I did not recognize the places, roads, or names. A few people wrote and asked them to stop unless they could do a better job. If, during this fire season, similar things happen people are going to want to turn the warnings off.
So: A good idea – poor implementation.

July 17, 2022 11:01 pm

The warning app would be useless. You say the weather guys knew of the possibility hours of ahead of time. I take it you knew only that something was possible in the next few hours, not that you knew the exact moment it would happen.

So you’d have to announce on the app that sometime in the next several hours, there might be some nasty dust storms.

Who in the world would pay any attention to any such warning? No one. Tornado warnings mean tornadoes or funnel clouds have been observed, right? People pay attention to them. Hurricane warnings are easy to believe, even if they sometimes get the exact future track wrong.

Tsunami warnings are much more exact with much better time predictions, and people still go down to the beach to watch.

A warning that there might be sudden winds sometimes in the next few hours? Not a chance.

Reply to  Felix
July 18, 2022 11:22 pm

“Tornado warnings mean tornadoes or funnel clouds have been observed, right? People pay attention to them.'”
They do? I take it you’ve never lived in Kansas or Missouri. 🙂

July 17, 2022 11:02 pm

By ignoring new technology & meteorological guidance that can reduce the frequency of such roadside carnage, they can blame “climate change” 

Peta of Newark
July 17, 2022 11:42 pm

you know exactly what I am thinking
no sympathy here
Empathy yes, but no-one likes or wants Empathy – it can hurt and seem unkind.

Tell u wot:
What about an app for fixing the dust storm – for reducing the chance that it ever kicked off in the first place?
Would an app be app(haha)ropriate, or would some other (actual/practical) remedy be better suited to preventing dust storms?

Meantime, we might have Apps that tell of:
dust storms
fire storms
smoke storms
water storms
snow/ice storms
flood storms
ABCxyz storms

Fine. Lovely. Nice.
Anyone ever heard of Risk Compensation?
Where legions of App Users venture into places they really shouldn’t, but they do, safe in their gullibility, naivete and knowledge that The App will look after them.
Q: How did the seat-belt-wearing app, the air-bag app and the crumple-zone app save the folks who perished in that little prang? ##

Why is there such a thing as ‘Dry Land Farming‘?
It’s oxymoronic yet those engaged in it do all they can to make the land ever more dry. While it’s patently a really dumb thing to do.

So why do they do it?
Think about that for a while, then shed a tear for the locusts who perished in the whirlwind that they and their peers created.
(As a trivial aside: Just how big is the ‘wake’ from those big trucks as they go past? Did the traffic itself create the storm – after the farmers and their customers created the dust)

If you can. Studies in self-promotion, minutia-mining (such as this article), and possession of Empathy probably won’t let you.
Yet history repeats and because it does, the minutia-miners tell us that it’s normal and is what’s supposed to happen.

How crazy can things get?
Maybe, just maybe, history is NOT supposed to repeat. Maybe the notion of cycles, apart from day/night and summer/winter, is utter garbage.

You see why doncha?
Because ‘cycles’ are an admission that ‘Things are currently = A bit less than optimum’ (iow: shit)
But, because they come in cycles, are Bound to get better.
If we do nothing.
For long enough.
Is there an app for that?

## After all that thinking and applicationing, sleep tight.
And have a nightmare thus:
How might things have been different in that mishap if the electric car app had been fully enforced?
Locusts do the strangest things. seemingly.

Powered by an excess of Serotonin inside their brains.
Yet if an individual locust feels ‘not quite right’ and visits a doctor, the doctor will probably give them pills to increase the amount of Serotonin inside their head.
Not even Monty Python could be that cruel.

Everything we know is wrong.
(Does that include what apps know)

PS Here’s another dust storm in the making.
From BBC

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  Peta of Newark
July 17, 2022 11:57 pm

I feel dumber for having read that.

July 18, 2022 1:07 am

With continuing drought and more (thunder) storms from climate change, certainly this is going to get worse.

you can’t keep ignoring the real weather impacts from climate change

Here in the UK a new record temp is expected today – also climate change.

I expect you will all be claiming the record is due to building near the weather station – ignoring a range of record high temps right across the country.

Reply to  griff
July 18, 2022 4:00 am

Well you need to quantify are these wetter droughts going to be worse than previous dry droughts? I mean you claim is it’s wetter 3% for the UK already I believe was you claim.

So with temperature is there a percentage of how much warmer it’s going to be and that begs the question is it also going to be colder and by what percentage?

Now to thunderstorms is there a percentage of how much they will increase and what about days without wind do we have percentages on that?

CO2 levels are going to continue to rise so the UK is doomed I tell you doomed … the end is nigh.

Reply to  griff
July 18, 2022 4:21 am

Sure, griff, the climate is changing as it always has and yes it is getting a little warmer, but how is this the fault of CO2?
Please explain.


Thought not.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  griff
July 18, 2022 4:50 am

Here in the UK a new record temp is expected today – also climate change.

BOLLOCKS complete and utter BOLLOCKS

Griff you are a complete and utter Plonker. It’s possibly the highest temperature recorded since we started having automated weather stations all over the place in built up areas. There is NO WAY you or anyone elese can know what the peak tempertures were in the Holocene Optimum, The Minoan Optimum, the Roman Warm Period or the MWP. Or how rural temperatures now compare with temperatures pre-electronic temperature monitoring.

You’re UHI denying gade 1 idiot and a typically sad reflection on those living in the Home Counties

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
July 18, 2022 6:52 am

I copied a couple of links to today’s weather articles in the Daily Mail so that I can look back later and laugh at their idiocy.

One headline was:
Britain could hit 43C tomorrow and is on track for hottest day in history today
then a little later it added
Met Office predicts mercury could hit 43C tomorrow and ‘thousands will die’
This same article was accompanied with no less than 123 pictures, 8 Met charts, 16 Twitter comments and 4 videos.

The newspaper must be facing hard times when it has to spend so much space hyper-sensationalizing a hot summer day to get readers.

I did not bother and even read all their twaddle but pity those naive enough to believe they are telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Reply to  griff
July 18, 2022 7:39 am

Griffter….we are worried about you ….when it hits 100, pour a conrainer of ice water over your head …..there….feel better?

Reply to  Antigriff
July 18, 2022 10:19 am

That would just exaggerate his brain-freeze.

Reply to  griff
July 18, 2022 11:32 pm

I am sure no amount of evidence would ever change your mind but I’ll feel better for trying.

By Kenneth Richard on
More Data Manipulation By NOAA, NASA, HadCRUT…Cooling The Past, Warming the Present
13. February 2017

 Thousands Of Non-Urban Thermometers Removed
0.3°C Of Pause-Busting Warmth Added Since 1998
0.5°C Of Warming Removed From 1880-1950 Trend

Over the course of the last few decades, overseers of the 3 main 19th century-to-present global temperature data sets — NOAA, NASA, and HadCRUT — have been successfully transforming the temperature record to the shape dictated by climate models. Namely, there has been a concerted effort to cool down the past — especially the 1920s to 1940s warm period — and to warm up the more recent decades, especially after about 1950. In this way, a trend of steep linear warming emerges that looks similar to the linear shape of anthropogenic CO2 emissions for the 20th and 21st centuries. A better fit between anthropogenic CO2 emissions and surface temperature helps to imply causation, and this ostensible correlation-turned-causation can then be used to justify policy decisions aimed at eliminating fossil fuel energies.

75% Of GHCN Temperature Stations Removed Since 1970s…

Reply to  griff
July 18, 2022 11:59 pm

Most of regional climate related changes since 40 years are less extreme weather events and a greening planet with a decrease in desertic regions including the subSaharan region
The only actual climate related threat to humanity are all those complete idiotic climate change policies the consequences of which are mainly ecological disasters and global impoverishment.

Jeff Schmucker
July 18, 2022 5:15 am

The dust cloud wasn’t “created” by wind and the crash wasn’t because of how people drive. The wind picked up countless soil particles that are the result of our industrial farming practices today where we till, plant, apply inorganic fertilizer, spray herbicides (glyphosate), spray insecticides and fungicides, harvest and let the dead soil lie fallow until the next cycle of the same.

If we were practicing Regenerative Agriculture and Grazing, there wouldn’t be any exposed, dry soil for the winds to pick up to form dust clouds. The bottom line problem is the way we have been farming since the 40’s. We’re losing precious soil to wind and water erosion at an astonishing rate.

If we incentivize farmers and ranchers to abandon the High Input farming practices sold to them by the equipment, seed and fertilizer industries and adopt regenerative practices, all of the dust goes away. The fields need to have a living plant on them at all times in the form of diverse cover crops. And instead of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, we need to incentivize them to reintroduce the natural biology present in living soil. These microbes liberate the immense reservoir of nutrients that are currently unavailable to plants because they are there in inorganic form and not useable by plant roots. These same microbes also sequester enough carbon to more than offset all of the fuels burned by the tractors in the field and the cars, trains, trucks and aircraft driving or flying past and over them.

The solution is biological, not regulatory. Search YouTube for presentations by Dr. David Johnson of CalState Chico.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  Jeff Schmucker
July 18, 2022 4:05 pm

As the person who lives near there pointed out, this has nothing to do with the farming technique and everything to do with recently mowed fields and lots of wind. The big problem with your advocated farming method is productivity. If we go back to low productivity methods of farming, we have to put a lot more acres into service. The price of food goes up all across the world, and poor people suffer even more. I would like one of you green advocates to explain to a subsistence farmer or laborer in a third world country that they will get fewer calories and lower quality ones because you are saving the planet.

Reply to  Jeff Schmucker
July 19, 2022 12:26 am

Jeff, do you pay any attention to international news? Your way was just tried. These are the results. It didn’t work out so well to put it mildly.

Sri Lanka Begging Russia and India for Fuel: A Nation Wrecked by Green Agricultural Policies

Looming food shortages is the next ‘slow-moving disaster’ to hit world

How a powerful dynasty bankrupted Sri Lanka in 30 monthsApr 28, 2022Last April, Sri Lanka suffered another shock: the government abruptly banned chemical fertilizer imports. In public, officials framed the move as delivering on a campaign promise to embrace organic…

Sri Lanka Food Shortages Due to Fertilizer Ban, (Not Putin)

Sri Lanka to get new president amid political and economic meltdownJul 11, 2022Sri Lankans have mainly blamed Rajapaksa for the collapse of the tourism-dependent economy, which was hammered badly by the COVID-19 pandemic and a ban on

July 18, 2022 5:18 am

We aren’t likely to change driving habits, but we already have widely available traffic apps, used mostly for routing, congestion, and road hazards, often in near-real time. I really like Cliff’s idea, but for it to work, these traffic app platforms are the place to add the feature. Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc.

D Boss
July 18, 2022 5:27 am

My observation is that 80% of people behind the steering wheel in N America would not pass a driving test to obtain a new license! This includes cops. Following too close is a universal problem at all speeds in all conditions.

The technical problem is the faulty nut behind the steering wheel! Warnings are nice, but people do not even slow down and extend the gap to the vehicle in front when actual rain or snow is obviously obscuring visibility ahead!

Part of the problem is in the technical advancements in vehicle technology – better tires, better suspensions, better brakes – all conspire to give the nuts behind the wheel a false sense of security or control – when in dry ideal conditions you can stop in 1/10th of the distance of cars from say 50 years ago. HOWEVER in wet or icy, or zero visibility conditions – if you got into that complacent attitude – you are screwed!

If you learned on an old VW bug, or a Rambler American (no power brakes, no power steering and 3 on the tree) as I did – there is no way in heaven or hell you can take corners at the speeds of modern cars, or brake in the short distances as modern cars. You would not even consider following too close, or being stupid. But the modern advances, lead to stupid drivers doing asinine things.

Physics and physiology has not changed in the 49 years since I got my license. It takes 3/4 of a second for the brain to recognize a need to stop, to the time your foot presses on the brake pedal. Worse in old farts, or young idiots high on weed. At 50 MPH the 5,000 lb car moves 73.3 feet per second. So in 3/4 of a second reaction time, your 5,000 lb missile has traveled 55 feet!

There is a reason the rule of thumb is 1 car length spacing for every 10 MPH!

As Ron White says “you can’t fix stupid”.

Reply to  D Boss
July 18, 2022 6:17 am

“Only a fool
Breaks the two second rule.”

Reply to  D Boss
July 18, 2022 7:56 am

I drove through there a few days before this happened and drive that stretch relatively freqently. City drivers on vacation and not familiar with how to drive on the open highway with 80 mph speed limits tend to drive over the limit and cut in too quickly after passing and that also contributes to the problem. I see it all the time.

July 18, 2022 8:08 am

Although following too closely would appear to be the problem it really is not. A car traveling at 60 MPH travels about 7 car lengths/second. Thus in the case of a total instantaneous lack of vision you only have about 1.5 seconds to react and come to a total stop if you are keeping the recommended distance between cars. A cell phone app that receives speed info from the vehicles ahead and sounds a critical warning of a slowdown directly ahead could be an aid here.

Reply to  MR166
July 18, 2022 12:06 pm

Both my vehicles, a 2012 Acura MDX and a 2016 GMC Yukon Denali, have ACC: Adaptive Cruise Control. You set your speed and your following distance and let the radar and computer do the rest. It slows down if there’s a vehicle inside the following distance and will brake if something suddenly shows up in front, like a sudden merge. It doesn’t need cell service to work.

John VC
July 18, 2022 8:41 am

Seems to me that the current push towards no till, cover crop, farming could prevent both the soil erosion and highway disaster this weather event caused.

July 18, 2022 8:48 am

My Ford has front speed sensing radar. If I approach a slow or stopped vehicle too quickly it give me about a 1/2 a second warning. It is a true emergency warning system.

Reply to  MR166
July 18, 2022 4:43 pm

Back in high school in the high desert, we occasionally had days where dust blown off the dry lakes shutdown the airstrip. The dust was opaque to radar. It was also killer on jet engines. (depositing scale on everything after the igniter and flameholder, especially the power turbine blades) Your Ford might not be willing to drive down the road until the dust settled.

July 18, 2022 9:45 am

Just make it against the law to drive recklessly.
There, problem solved.

Reply to  Plebney
July 18, 2022 6:51 pm

The basic speed law in every state is that it is illegal to drive faster than road conditions allow.

The fact that all licensed drivers agree to follow all driving laws before a license is issued escapes the IQ of most journalists.

Bill Parsons
July 18, 2022 12:09 pm

If such events are “not rare”, how about not plowing land adjacent to the highways? Fire-resistant native grasses that reach senescence at different times of the summer and fall would anchor soil and provide a bulwark against dust storms. Grazing them could keep them from getting overgrown if they begin to pose a fire hazard.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Bill Parsons
July 18, 2022 10:30 pm

The negative “1” inspired me to ask… what the…? If you had something to say maybe you could spit it out instead of making your mark this way.

Till you do, chew on this. It’s better to stabilize soil and keep it out of the air than to have an “app” that tells you it’s comin’ your way.

Reply to  Bill Parsons
July 19, 2022 12:34 am

I did not give you the down vote but I do think your idea is not workable. I have driven miles in Kansas, Missouri, Indiana etc. with farms on both sides of the highways. How far back do you think farmers should not plow? How many thousands of acres do you want them to take out of production to prevent the very rare weather event of dust storms? It would probably entail taking millions of acres out of production, in reality.

July 18, 2022 2:44 pm

It is clear that there is more than a cottage industry that thrives on the notion that all events are caused by climate change. I’d suggest that it the same industry that siphons off significant amounts of energy (money) that could be used to benefit humanity, but no. But hey, the town cryers have learned how to amplify their voice well above their ability to understand fundamental processes on this planet. As Rush Limbaugh lamented, it is like trying to teach a fish about fire. There is no commonality.

Michael S. Kelly
July 18, 2022 6:33 pm

These warning apps have been around for more than a decade. About 10 years ago, I was on my way to meet a friend for dinner in Washington, DC, walking from the Metro to the restaurant. It had been raining that day. I was about to step off the curb into a crosswalk (my foot was literally hovering over the street) when an alert siren went off on my iPhone. The screen proclaimed: “FLASH FLOOD WARNING IN YOUR VICINITY” Instantly, a torrent of water filled the gutter where my foot would have been a second later. I was able to step far enough back to not get wet, and eventually found a route to the restaurant that was dry enough. That was several iPhones ago. I haven’t had anything as dramatic happen since, but it did serve me well back then.

July 18, 2022 10:58 pm

In case someone here ever needs this, I will share what I learned about dust storms upon moving to Arizona.
If there’s a dust storm, pull over to the side of the road immediately and onto the shoulder as far off the highway as you can. Here’s the important point which is counterintuitive.
In a dust storm, drivers can’t tell if you’re moving or not. Due to poor visibility, they see your lights and think you are on the road and are moving when you’re parked and crash into the back of your car.
Since moving here, dust storms are very strange experiences. You lose your visual orientation. I’ve found them to be quite fascinating and awesome but terrifying if you are caught driving in one.

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