Meteorologically, forecasting exactly where and how dense dust will be-- is extremely challenging. Such was the case Tuesday afternoon near Picacho Peak.
"These were dust 'channels' and they were relatively thin. That makes for quite the challenge in terms of what you can do to advise drivers that something has happened because we may not know about it right away," said Doug Nintzel with ADOT.
ADOT currently uses dynamic warning signs to warn drivers of hazardous road conditions. Often times, it's the only way drivers know of an impending dust storm.
"When we hear from the National Weather Service that blowing dust is possible or that it is occurring, we will work through our traffic operations center to get those signs activated as soon as possible," Nintzel said.
But new visibility sensors are currently being tested along I-10 in Southeastern Arizona between Bowie and the New Mexico state line. The Dual Use Safety Technology (DUST) Warning System was developed by ADOT to help improve safety on dust-prone stretches of freeway. Although DUST could help provide better warnings, the technology does have its challenges.
"If you have a narrow channel of dust going across a highway, the position of the monitoring station may be miles away from where that's happening, and it does you no good. That's one of the things we're researching," said Nintzel.
The DUST Warning System measures wind speed, visibility and has a camera. The equipment is relatively new and is still in the process of being tested.
"The key thing we need drivers to know is that we need to research this. We need to know that the system is reliable," added Nintzel.
ADOT adds that the sensors have worked in Southeastern Arizona, but there have also been some false alarms. More testing is needed before moving forward.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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