Wednesday, February 1, 2023


Dealing with dust storms on the RV road

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.



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2 years ago

1986 in Death Valley at Furnace Creek Campground … 94° and dust so thick you could barely see the RV parked in the next camp. Dust so fine it was filtering through roof vent, window and door seals leaving little “drifts” here and there. Lasted all day and late into the evening … like living in a dusty sauna but nowhere to go and couldn’t drive anyway! One of my 1st camping trips in our cabover camper and almost the last. Better than a tent though!

2 years ago

Be very careful in running any motor or engine in the area of a dust storm or worse a sandstorm as found in Arizona and the SW. Sandstorms are virtually and immediately destructive to an engine – filtered or not! The grains are as fine as pumice. (baby powder). Get off or stay off the roads and shutdown as soon as possible. Visibility is also equally serious. Be sure to change air filters, or at least clean out as best you can – before starting the engine again.

If you can get under cover it would be even better to save your paint job. Sandstorms can strip car paint/graphics in about :05 minutes. Just like sandblasting it!!! (Which it is!)

mike neely
2 years ago

I grew up in El Paso in the late 60’s and early 70’s , when spring came (March and April) we always had dust storms that would block out the sun (little redish/yellowish ball in the sky). I had an uncle who drove through southern Arizona and New Mexico and the side of his car was pretty much sand blasted of paint. As far as dust devils, I have had 1 came right over me when I was setting up my pop-up. The pop-up did a 180.

Tommy Molnar
2 years ago

I was still working when I shot this video about eight years ago. Eastbound on I-80 in NV. I put the phone down at the end of it so I could concentrate more on the ‘business at hand’. This was before dashcams were plentiful. It was basically a huge dust devil that cleared up moments after I took the vid.

claire thomas
2 years ago

i remember those dust storms back in the 70’s in our little vw bug…

Ray Leissner
2 years ago

About 2 years ago in west Texas near Balmorhea, we encountered a dust storm, aka dust devil, that was so intense we could only see thru to the exterior surface of our windshield, forget seeing the hood. It literally looked like we were buried, only the sand was still moving along the windshield surface. Already in crawl mode, we quickly pulled over what felt like would take us just off the road and shut it off. There we sat in amazement and fear of not knowing where we might be sitting. It was past us soon and luckily we found ourselves just off the road.

Donald N Wright
2 years ago

My first duststorm was returning from New Mexico and entering North West Texas. It was a wall of brown reaching almost to heaven. I was lucky, I found a cheap motel in Amarillo, parked my white pickup and my white Aliner, and never left my motel room till morning. The cloud had passed and left me with a dark brown truck and trailer. Folks suggested I just clean off the windows and drive till most of the dust comes off. Washing it turns into sticky mud.

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