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Q&AZ: What's The Difference Between Driving During A Dust Storm And Snowstorm?

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Monday, May 27, 2019 - 10:26pm
Updated: Wednesday, June 10, 2020 - 11:48am

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Tracy Greer/KJZZ
The wall of dust in the Phoenix area.

The 2019 monsoon season officially begins June 15, and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is beginning their campaign on how to stay safe if a driver is caught in a dust storm.

The main recommendation is to completely pull off the road and turn off all lights in the car until the wall of dust passes.

This differs from advice officials give for driving in a snowstorm, and the difference can be confusing for recent Arizona transplants and dangerous for those who don’t know what to do during haboob season.

Dust storms are very quick-moving and can reduce road visibility to "black out” conditions with little warning.

“We want people to turn off the light in their car and take their foot off the break because if people see a light on or see a brake light on they may follow that light thinking you know the way out but the reality is, your vehicle is stopped,” said ADOT spokesman Doug Pacey.

Zero visibility conditions due to snow, known as a “whiteout,” are less common and can pelt an area with snow for hours.

Drivers are instructed to pull over and keep their hazard lights on so rescue vehicles can locate them or, better yet, avoid driving during snowy conditions altogether.

Restricting travel is much harder in Arizona, where these dust storms are fast-moving and their paths are harder to predict.