ADOT dust detection system put to the test with recent storms

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Posted at 3:06 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 21:55:13-04

Within the past week, the Valley has been hit by severe storms, producing heavy rain, damaging wind and blowing dust.

Those same storms struck the I-10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson, where ADOT's dust detection system is located.

“What we’ve done here is created a system in the area where historically we had the most dust-related traffic accidents in our state in a 10-mile section in Pinal County," says ADOT spokesperson Tom Herrmann.

Since the first-of-its-kind network of sensors, signs and cameras went into operation last June, ADOT says that seven dust storms have activated the system.

It alerted drivers to slow down as recently as July 10, when blowing dust hit the area.

Everything is working as planned, according to ADOT.

“We were notified at our Traffic Operations Center. The overhead message boards told people to slow down, that there was danger from dust ahead. The variable speed limits sign worked to slow people down and make it safer, so everything that we dreamed of five years is working to expectation," Herrmann said.

The detection system also includes a weather radar that detects dust storms from miles away, alerting ADOT that there could be a danger for drivers.

Herrmann says it's a game-changer because it has taken a section of I-10 and made it safer for everybody.

If the network remains successful, a potential snow detection system could be installed along I-40 near Flagstaff in the future.