Every time I drive to Phoenix on a windy day, I get a little bit nervous.
It’s a familiar scenario: Trees are swaying, tumbleweeds are bouncing around the barren land, dust devils swirl in the distance, and flashing lights on the government signs tell us it’s windy.
So far– the lighted warning signs are the Arizona government’s only official response to years of dangerous interstate driving, major dust storms, and multiple crashes.
We have all seen the pictures and heard the stories about massive dust storms on I-10 and the tragic fatalities. Regular road closures east of Tucson due to dangerous blowing dust from one property owner have resulted in low-tech mitigation– AKA, “watering” the lose dirt with “gorilla snot”, a mixture that keeps the dirt from blowing. Really? Gorilla snot and flashing lights? Is this the best we can do to control this widespread public health hazard?
Not only do dust storms bring hazardous driving conditions, they also cause breathing problems and serious health conditions. Just a few years ago– not long after Wall Street crashed Arizona’s economy–we were driving through San Tan on an extremely windy day. Large swaths of desert in and around San Tan had been scraped clean, presumably to build housing. The air was brown and thick blowing dirt. Visibility was maybe 50 feet, yet people were walking around, going about their business as breathing dust was perfectly normal.
What about plants?
Five years ago, when I first wrote about dangerous dust storms on I-10, I called for replanting desert vegetation along I-10.