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Dave & Dujanovic: In a dust storm, pull aside to stay alive

July 25, 2021: Image of truck involved in fatal pile-up crash in Millard County, Utah. Photo credit: Melissa Porter

SALT LAKE CITY — Do you know what to do if you encounter a dust storm while driving?

If you can avoid it, turn around and don’t drive through any dust storm. If not, pull far off the paved road, turn your lights off, put your seat belt on and lift your foot off the brake.

The subject of driving in a dust storm is top of mind because blowing dust blinded drivers along a stretch of Interstate 15 near Kanosh, Utah, on Sunday. The dust storm triggered a 22-vehicle pileup that killed eight people. At least 10 people were transported to area hospitals, three of them in critical condition.

The UHP reported that five of the eight people who died were riding in one car, two who died were in another car and the eighth death was in a third car.

RELATED: Children account for half of Millard County pile-up fatalities

Drought, dust, wind, and disaster

KSL Meteorologist Kevin Eubank joined Debbie Dujanovic and guest co-host Ethan Millard to discuss what triggered the dust storm in Millard County about 160 miles south of Salt Lake City.

 Eubank said the thunderstorms that recently brought flooding to southern Utah produced violent winds, up to 90 mph. And he said the drought also played a part in the pileup Sunday.

“The soil is so dry that it’s just so easily picked up,” Eubank said. “Had it been in spring when everything was wet, you wouldn’t have this kind of a storm. There wouldn’t be the available dirt and dust in the air to create this type of storm.

Because it’s epically dry, that was one contributing factor,” Eubank said.

Six ways to stay alive

The Arizona Department of Transportation — an organization in a state that see its share of dust and sandstorms — recommends drivers follow these safety steps:

  • Get off the roadway as soon as possible
  • Keep your seat belt on
  • Set the parking brake
  • Take your foot off the brake pedal
  • Stay inside your vehicle and wait for the storm to pass
  • And most importantly, turn your lights off so other drivers don’t follow you.

Lost in the storm

The most terrifying thing about driving in a dust storm is the complete loss of visibility and orientation.

“You don’t know where you are on the freeway. You can barely see the lines on the freeway. You don’t know who’s coming in ahead of you, who’s coming behind you and who stopped in front,” Eubank said.

You don’t know which way is forward, backward, up or down, and it’s like the only thing holding you to the ground is gravity.”

Cars sitting motionless along the roadway are sitting ducks for the deadly chain-reaction effect of multi-vehicle pileups.

Eubank said residents along the Wasatch Front can likely expect to see more dust and debris swirling the air as winds pick up more salt and dust remnants from the Great Salt Lake as it evaporates during this exceptional drought most of Utah is experiencing now.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.