By Jim Twamley
My grandfather told me about the Dust Bowl days when lack of soil conservation combined with a severe drought caused half of Texas, Oklahoma, and much of the Midwest to blow away. It wasn’t uncommon to see massive clouds of dust blowing across the land. The famous American journalist Ernie Pyle reported on these storms and how they enveloped everything, making it difficult to breathe and impossible to see more than a few feet in any direction.
These days dust storms are not as large or severe, but they still happen. Driving my RV across the country I’ve encountered many of these small dust storms. Normally you can see them five or ten miles ahead as you drive. Most of these storms are mild and I just drive through them. Mrs. Professor doesn’t like it because dust gets into the coach. However, if it looks like visibility will be severely impaired, pull over and wait. It is preferable to use a rest area or a wide spot off the side of the road. It is important to get as far off the road as possible. When visibility is reduced other vehicles could crash into you.
I grew up in the California San Joaquin Valley where we have thick tule fog in the late fall and winter, and every year we have traffic pileups from people stopping on the road when the fog is too dense. So, if you have to stop, get as far off the road as possible. Turn off your engine to prevent your air filter from getting clogged. Make sure all the windows are closed and wait it out.
Drive defensively and stay alert for changing road conditions.
Editor’s note: Authorities in dust-storm-prone areas also advise, when pulling over in a dust storm, TURN OFF all your lights and do not use your emergency flashers or step on your brake pedal. Drivers behind “lit up” vehicles may mistake them for a vehicle still under way and plow right into them.