Arnoldo Burruel knows the open fields north of Tucson are prone to walls of blowing dust, especially during Monsoon.

I started farming here in Marana and up in Eloy in 1987, he said. The harsh winds [during dust storms] are hard on the crops. We dont like to see that.

But Burruel says dust storms are a much bigger threat to people, a threat that grows as Marana urbanizes and grows.

When the wind is blowing hardespecially like a lot of the ground that I farm, which is in close proximity to roads, to I-10we shut down. We shut down production, he said.

And sometimes those winds may last for days or a week. Just because you dont want to exasperate the situation by having the dust of your cultivation practices going across the road, being a potential hazard to drivers.

Thats especially a risk between Tucson and Phoenix, where Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Garin Groff met with KGUN.

The city really covers up a lot of the loose soil, where here, theres almost nothing to cover up that loose soil and all the dust thats been sitting on top of it, he explained.

Along a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Eloy and Picacho Peak, ADOT invested $6.5 million in a dust detection and warning system that debuted in 2020. It includes a variable speed limit corridor with digital speed limit signs.

Monsoon is peak season for dust storms, but the system operates year-round.

Weve had anywhere from 10 to about 18 activations per year in the three years that this has been operating, said Groff. We have 13 visibility sensors, and when they detect that the dust is reducing visibility, the system will automatically lower the speed limit and put up safety messages on the overhead message boards.

Speed limits can drop from 75 miles per hour to as low as 35 mph during dust storms.

We know that the system is working as designed because we have sensors in the roadway Traffic does actually slow down so vehicles can pass through this area more safely, said Groff.

But ADOTs advice for drivers caught in a dust storm is to


driving; they say to pull over, turn off the ignition and take a foot off the brake to turn off brake lights, so other cars dont follow behind and drive into the car.

Just like drivers on the road, Burruel says farmers need to be patient when Arizonas weather gets wild.

Well just take what Mother Nature throws at us, he said. We always do.