Weather Continues to Wreak Havoc on Roadsby Jana Ritter - Published: 4/10/2013
Despite the warnings issued across Arizona and California, dust and wind caught many drivers by surprise and became a huge problem for truck drivers trying to make their scheduled destinations on time. Although the roads seemed clear, thick spurts of dust made visibility on roads nearly impossible in some areas.
Truck driver Hector Fernandez was forced to get off the road due to the hazardous conditions and immediately found the closest truck stop in Casa Grande. "My rig started to sway back and forth. It is 53 feet. I knew I had to pull over," Fernandez said. "It's hard to drive on the road with these winds, especially when you are carrying 35,000 pounds," Fernandez added. Although he was enroute to his scheduled destination as far as Texas, he has seen enough to stay off the road until the weather settles down.
The hazardous weather outlook continues to be in effect for parts of Arizona and southeast California, including Imperial County. In addition to a wind advisory set for sustained, high winds with gusts between 40 and 58 miles per hour, it also warns drivers of dangerous road conditions with reduced visibility due to blowing dust. The wind has already proven strong enough to blow over six large old trees in El Centro alone. One tree that has stood for decades was ripped out of the ground more or less intact, and its roots stretched almost as high as the rooftop. Power outages were reported all across Imperial County as well.
The strength of these winds makes driving high-profile vehicles even more dangerous and already caused a semi-truck to tip onto its side Monday morning on Interstate 8 near Ocotillo, then another truck to tip over in the westbound lane on Mountain Spring Road later in the day. Although the winds were expected to decrease considerably around midnight and be mostly breezy today, officials said their effects are expected to linger for days.
Meanwhile, a large spring snowstorm delivering heavy snow, high winds and rain is already causing travel problems from Wyoming to Chicago today. In Wyoming, some big stretches of Interstates 25 and 80 were closed and have since reopened, but snow and blowing conditions were still making driving dangerous along the interstates and smaller highways. About two dozen truckers and other motorists took refuge at the truck stop in Laramie to wait out the storm. "We haven't really had bad days like today where everybody is stuck and nobody can go anywhere," Sam Blaney, who was working the service counter at the Petro truck stop.
Bruce Burrows, spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation commented on the wide scope of areas being hit. "I'm pretty confident that this particular storm is more widespread and has caused more travel problems and closures than any storm we've had this calendar year certainly," he said.
Freezing rain, snow and strong winds, have also been hitting Kansas and South Dakota, even causing numerous local elections to be postponed. Travel conditions in Minnesota have been rapidly worsening as well.