Why Did Boise’s Dust Storm Warning Tell You to Turn Your Lights Off?
There you were. Just minding your own business. Maybe you were finishing up dinner or sitting down to watch TV when all of a sudden your phone started buzzing with an alert that you didn't even know it could or would send you.
Honestly, we can't remember a time where our phone set off an emergency alert that wasn't related to an Amber Alert. While we can't remember a time where we've gotten an emergency alert related to severe weather, they do fall under the four types of alerts the FCC allows the "Wireless Emergency Alerts" system to send directly to compatible mobile phones. This alert falls into the "alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life" bucket. If you didn't get the alert, this is what it said.
For the most part, that seems like pretty solid advice but a lot of us were scratching our heads over the advice to "turn off the lights and keep your foot off the brake." Why is that an essential part of dust storm safety?
The National Weather Service explains that in cases of low visibility other motorists will use the lights of the car in front of them as a guide as to where the roadway actually is. Sometimes, they don't realize that the lights they're seeing are parked on the side of the road and collide with a parked vehicle waiting out the storm.
Dust storms and high winds aren't that uncommon in Idaho in the summer months, so last night's storm is a good reminder to brush up on dust storm safety in case you find yourself trapped in one while driving. The National Weather Service also suggests:
- Pulling off the pavement as far as possible and setting your emergency brake
- Avoiding the dust storm area if at all possible
- If pulling off isn't an option, drop to a speed safe enough for the visibility. In this situation you should keep your lights on and honk your horn occasionally to make other motorists aware. Rely on the center line for guidance.
- Don't stop in the traveled portion of the road.
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The winds have calmed down today, but don't be surprised if Boise is put under a red flag warning or excessive heat watch before this weekend. Right now the extended forecast is showing 11 consecutive days of triple digit temperatures beginning Sunday. They could reach as high as 109º by mid-week next week.