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Weather Wise: Visibility Hazards

Idaho duststorm
Posted at 4:56 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 10:15:24-04

A dust storm caused a 21-vehicle pileup on Interstate 90 in Big Horn County on Friday, resulting in the death of 6 people in one of the worst accidents in state history.

At the time, very strong wind kicked up dust and reduced visibility down to near zero. Outflow wind from nearby thunderstorms gusted in excess of 60 mph, creating a wall of dust and dirt.

Dust storms are one of several weather events that can reduce visibility here in Montana. In the winter, blizzards and blowing snow can create whiteout conditions. Dense fog and also wildfire smoke can create hazardous travel.

In the event visibility worsens while driving, there are some steps you can take according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. First and foremost, slow down before you encounter the area of reduced visibility, and take an exit to leave the highway. If that is not possible, use low beam headlights and avoid braking suddenly. slow down carefully and gently.

If you can, pull your vehicle way off of the road. Try not to leave the car until it looks clear and safe. If the pileup is not over, wait in the car, keep your seatbelt fastened and call 911.

What may be the most important measure to stay safe is to know the weather before you drive. if you can avoid driving when these conditions are possible, you could preemptively avoid the situation.