What's Up UA? - UA-Developed App Warns Drivers of Dust Storm Danger - Tucson Local Media: University Of Arizona

What's Up UA? - UA-Developed App Warns Drivers of Dust Storm Danger

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 11:21 am

Springtime is near, and with it the start of dust storm season in the southwestern United States.

Arizona experiences some of the worst dust storms in the country during the spring and summer months, leading to poor visibility and potentially dangerous driving conditions on the state's highways.

To help protect drivers from dust-related dangers on the road, the University of Arizona has created a mobile application for iPhones that provides dust storm alerts and safety tips.

Available for free download on iTunes, the app uses a person's geographical location anywhere in the country to determine if there is danger of a dust storm, or any other type of storm, in the area. The warnings come directly from the WeatherBug service.

An Android version of the app is expected to be released later this month or next month.

In addition to storm alerts, the app provides a list of specific tips for what to do when a dust storm hits, such as:

  • Do not drive into or through a dust storm.
  • Do not stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane.
  • Look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
  • Turn off all vehicle lights, including your emergency flashers.

The app also offers a place to list emergency phone numbers or insurance policy numbers drivers may want to have readily available in a storm, as well as a list of things people should keep in their cars as part of a Dust Storm Survival Kit. Some of those items include water, snacks or energy bars, a basic first aid kit, flashlight, dust mask and a whistle or pocket siren to signal for help.

The Dust Storm app was the brainchild of Kirk Astroth, UA assistant dean of Cooperative Extension and director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development program in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Developed by University Information Technology Services' web/mobile services team, with support from Student Affairs Marketing, it is among a group of mobile apps designed and developed by members of the University community as part of the UA's Mobile Matters initiative. The forthcoming Android version of Dust Storm is being developed with additional support from the University's SBS Technical Services group and UA computer science senior David Celaya.

Astroth said he got the idea for the app after seeing something similar in North Dakota that provided tips for staying safe in a blizzard.

"Dust storms are so common in Arizona, and so many people are killed on the road because they don't know what to do," Astroth said. "We wanted to help."

According to a report by the Arizona Department of Transportation, 193 crashes in 2011 occurred in weather conditions that included blowing sand, soil or dirt, resulting in two deaths and 140 people injured.

Astroth hopes those numbers will go down with education, noting that many people simply don't know the proper action to take in a dust storm, especially out-of-state visitors who might not be accustomed to those types of events.

One of the most common mistakes, he noted, is simply attempting to drive through the storm, even when blinded by a curtain of dirt.

While dust is a fact of life in the desert Southwest, Arizona's ongoing drought makes for even stronger dust storm conditions, said Mike Crimmins, UA Cooperative Extension specialist and associate professor of soil, water and environmental science.

With little moisture or vegetation to hold dust in place, high winds can quickly lead to blowing dust, said Crimmins, who was not involved in the development of the Dust Storm app.  

There are two dust storm seasons in Arizona, Crimmins said. During the spring season, which typically starts in March, large-scale weather systems with lots of wind can kick up enough dust to close major highways including I-10 and I-40. Those storms may last for the better part of a day, with 20-30 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 50 mph.

A second round of dust storms typically appears during the summer monsoon season, when thunderstorm conditions create shorter-lasting, but more intense, dust storms known as haboobs, which can see winds gusting up to 100 mph, Crimmins said.

Officials statewide are working to address the dangers of dust.

During a recent dust storm workshop in Casa Grande, Ariz., organized by the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Phoenix and Tucson offices of the National Weather Service, officials said they have gotten more aggressive about monitoring dust storms and shutting down the state's highways when visibility is poor.

Astroth hopes the Dust Storm app can also be part of the solution. He encourages drivers to check the app before they get on the road so they can avoid dangerous weather conditions in the first place.

"This seemed like an easy and good thing to do," he said. "It's free, and it could save people's lives."

© 2017 Tucson Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about

Welcome to the discussion.

Oro Valley Audiology

Oro Valley AudiologyAddress: 2542 E Vistoso Commerce Loop Rd, Oro Valley, AZ 85755Phone:(520) ...

Saturday 09/26/2015

Little goes right for the Wildcats

Saturday 09/19/2015

Records fall in lopsided win

Friday 09/04/2015

Arizona challenged by Roadrunners

Tuesday 08/18/2015

Arizona has few questions at QB

Thursday 08/06/2015

Cats open fall drills

Monday 03/09/2015

McConnell, Johnson finalists for awards Johnson Named FOY, Four Wildcats Honored by Pac-12

Monday 01/19/2015

Johnson named Player of the Week

Friday 01/16/2015

Wildcats down shorthanded Colorado

Monday 01/05/2015

Vote for Sean Miller & win $100,000 for the Tucson Ronald McDonald House

Monday 12/15/2014

Arts and Sciences Are Writing a New Love Story Together

Thursday 12/11/2014

More hardware for UA's Wright

Wednesday 12/10/2014

S.H.I.E.L.D half season finale delivers Cats get a glimpse of the future in blowout

Friday 11/14/2014

UA Eller College To Share Economic Outlook for 2015-2016

Wednesday 11/12/2014

UA Humanities Seminars

Tuesday 11/04/2014

What's Up UA? - Hiring Interns? Top 8 Tips for Companies

Wednesday 10/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Close Encounter 'One in a Million'

Monday 10/13/2014

What's Up UA? - Austin Hill: The Comeback Kid

Monday 10/06/2014

What's Up UA? - Health, Wellness Practices Highlighted by Chinese Culture Festival

Thursday 10/02/2014

What's Up UA? - Ready for a Super-Fast Internet? UA Scientists Are Fast at Work on It

Tuesday 09/30/2014

What's Up UA? - Using the Force: UA Police Officer Completes NASA Project

Monday 09/29/2014

What's Up UA? - How New Social Movements Take Root

Friday 09/26/2014

What's Up UA? - PBS 'NewsHour' to Feature Inspirational UA Student

Wednesday 09/24/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Paves Way to Redefine STEM Education

Monday 09/22/2014

What's Up UA? - Wildcats Rally, Hail Mary TD Defeats Cal, 49-45

Thursday 09/18/2014

What's Up UA? - When Job Loss Equals Weight Gain

Monday 09/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Don’t Underestimate Your Mind’s Eye

Thursday 09/11/2014

What's Up UA? - 'What I Wish I Had Known as a Freshman'

Tuesday 09/09/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Undergraduate Researchers Take to the Radio

Thursday 09/04/2014

What's Up UA? - Send Your Tweet – and Your Name – to an Asteroid

Tuesday 09/02/2014

What's Up UA? - Brown Foundations' $2.5 Million Kicks Off Catapult Corp

Thursday 08/28/2014

What's Up UA? - New Veterinary Degree Program Made Possible by $9M Gift is Critical for State

Monday 08/25/2014

What's Up UA? - Laser 'Lightning Rods' Channel Electricity Through Thin Air

Thursday 08/21/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Fall Enrollment Sets Record for Diversity, Number of Freshmen

Tuesday 08/19/2014

What's Up UA? - Remarkable Résumé: UA Student Journalist's Career Includes CNN, NYT Phoenix

Friday 08/15/2014

What's Up UA? - Through Innovative Partnership, 'Hot Shot' Team Tackles Yuma Produce Perils

Wednesday 08/13/2014

What's Up UA? - The UA Named a Top College by The Princeton Review

Monday 08/11/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Researchers Study Increasing Lifespan and Immune Function What's Up UA? - UA Undergrads Conducting Microgravity Research Aboard NASA's G-Force One

Monday 06/09/2014

What's up UA? - UA to Host U.S. and Mexico Officials Exploring Collaborations in Education, Innovation, Research

Thursday 06/05/2014

What's Up UA? - New Wilderness Medicine Class Hones Patient Care Skills in Rugged Conditions

Tuesday 06/03/2014

Track Cats Send Eight Athletes to TrackTown USA

Monday 06/02/2014

What's Up UA? - Bringing a Spacecraft Back From the Dead

Friday 05/30/2014

What's Up UA? - Heart Attack Patient Defies Odds with Tailored Surgical Treatment at UA Medical Center

Thursday 05/29/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Marketing Students Win National AT&T Competition

Tuesday 05/27/2014

What's Up UA? - Scientists Discover Genetic Basis of Pest Resistance to Biotech Cotton

Friday 05/23/2014

What's up UA? - Four UA Students Picked for Pat Tillman Foundation Scholarships

Wednesday 05/21/2014

What's Up UA? - Scientists Discover Genetic Basis of Pest Resistance to Biotech Cotton

Monday 05/19/2014

What's Up UA? - UA Tunnels Get Carbon Fiber Makeover


Follow us on Facebook

Online poll