Both Eastern Washington and Oregon were hit with high winds on Sunday, putting drivers in a tight spot. According to the Washington State Patrol, winds in Umatilla County peaked as high as 85 miles per hour. But for most of the day, 50-miles-per-hour winds that lifted up dirt and dust dramatically lowered visibility, leaving drivers stuck in dust storms.
On I-182 in Richland, a seven-vehicle crash slowed down traffic and prompted officials to run to the drivers’ aid. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured.
On social media, drivers shared videos of the gusty winds, dust, and tumbleweeds ahead as they waited the winds out on State Route 243. In some other areas, people were witnessing wild things from their own homes.
“I was kinda sitting up watching TV, and then I heard a big sound — kinda like a thump in a way… and it was rattling. I look over and I was with my friend at the time, and we both saw it at the same time, we just see the trampoline smacking against the house,” a Sunnyside resident told reporters.
In the Tri-Cities area, trees were damaged, with some falling to the ground due to the high winds’ power. Thankfully, no buildings or houses were reportedly impacted.
High Winds, Dust, And Driving: Accident Risks Increase Due To Visibility Issues
Law enforcement across the country have long warned drivers about the risks of driving through high wind and dust storms. Because wind-blown dust lowers visibility for drivers, the risk of accidents increases dramatically. If motorists are not aware of this fact, they might be caught off guard.
In order to prevent dust-related traffic accidents, try to avoid the storm all together. Pay attention to weather updates and if you hear about a dust storm, stay home.
If avoiding hitting the road isn’t possible, pull off or exit the road as soon as you notice the storm approaching but if you’re in the dust storm and stuck in traffic and it’s no longer possible to exit or pull over, make yourself visible. Lower your speed to match the speed of other vehicles, turn on your headlights as well as your emergency lights, and even honk your horn regularly to remind others of your presence.
To learn more about Sunday’s dust-related accident, follow this link.