Multiple crashes as blowing dust whips up south of Phoenix (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
Multiple crashes blocked eastbound lanes of Interstate 10 near Casa Grande Wednesday afternoon, the Arizona Department of Transportation said.
Traffic got by on the shoulder but was backed up for miles.
The crashes piled up as a dust storm warning was posted for northwest and north central Pinal County until 7 p.m.
With all the wicked weather, DPS officers throughout the county had their hands full. CBS 5 News rode along with Capt. Brian Preston as he managed multiple crashes throughout the Casa Grande area.
"Fortunately, so far everything has been minor injuries. That's just by chance," he said.
Preston said the low-level winds whip up dust that can cross highways and create blinding conditions. Unlike flooded roads, most drivers simply continue through, despite the dangers.
"The key to making (dusty weather driving) safer is to look at a dust event the same we do as a flood. When you look down the road and see water crossing the road, you don't drive into it," said Preston.
Some of the areas affected include Casa Grande, Florence and areas along State Route 347. Strong southwesterly winds will blow between 25 and 35 mph with isolated areas hitting 45 mph.
A cold front approaching Arizona is blowing cooler temperatures, dust and potentially dangerous driving conditions into the Valley and the rest of the state on Wednesday.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has issued a high-pollution advisory for the Phoenix metropolitan area Wednesday because of predicted strong winds.
In addition, the Maricopa County Air Quality Department has issued a mandatory no-burn restriction throughout the day.
Winds will increase Wednesday and kick up dust, especially in the evening. Wind gusts could get up to 50 mph, causing blowing dust and possibly lower visibilities on roadways.
Although the entire Valley could be dealing with blowing dust, it is most likely in dust-prone areas along Interstates 8 and 10 in Pinal County.
The Arizona Department of Transportation said travelers should be vigilant on the state's highways.
Motorists could see wind gusts as high as 50 mph and blowing dust along Interstate 8 between Yuma and Casa Grande, on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson, State Route 347 near Maricopa, and Interstate 40 between Flagstaff and Holbrook.
Winds and blowing dust could produce limited or zero visibility, according to ADOT.
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