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Sandstorm near Cedar City reduces visibility to nearly zero on I-15

Posted at 3:25 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 23:29:33-04

CEDAR CITY, Utah — A sandstorm was caught on video blanketing a portion of Interstate 15 near Cedar City on Monday, reducing visibility to nearly zero for drivers.

WATCH: Winds increasing today; Next storm moves in tonight

The dust storm was caught on a dash camera around noon by Christian Bonanno. The video shows the storm moving in from the east before completely engulfing the vehicle.

While the sandstorm was small, visibility was cut to almost nothing. After about 25 seconds, the storm cleared and visibility returned.

"I did not expect it to be that bad, to be honest," said Bonanno, who was driving from Cedar City to Hurricane. “Visibility went down to like 10 feet, so it wasn’t that much fun.”

Bonanno said he slowed down to about 30-40 miles per hour due to the low visibility, but he saw others driving through at normal freeway speeds.

Utah Highway Patrol troopers advise drivers to stop and pull over before hitting the cloud if they see a sandstorm from a distance, and if they can do so safely.

“Keep your eyes up and looking ahead. Driving into a dust storm isn’t something that just mysteriously happens — it’s something you’ll be able to see from a distance," said UHP Sgt. Scott Mackelprang.

But if you can't avoid it, the best option is to slow down.

“If you’re driving and you have to enter a dust area, reduce your speed to what you believe you can safely drive through it," Mackelprang said, adding that you should keep moving unless you come up behind a stopped vehicle.

Last summer, a dust storm in Millard County caused a massive pileup on I-15, resulting in eight deaths.

Monday's event was caused by dry conditions, combined with heavy winds.

Peak winds in southern Utah reached up to 66 miles per hour around 1 p.m. at the Cedar City Regional Airport. A gust of 58 miles per hour was recorded in Milford just after noon.

“These type of dust events are actually fairly frequent in Utah," said Timothy Wright, a climatologist here in Utah.

“It looks like it’s just strong winds associated with the storm system moving into Utah, and so it’s kicking up the dust and it’s just blowing it, it’s just kind of keeping it near the ground," Wright added after analyzing the video.

Wright says these dust events are more common in the spring and fall when storm systems pass through the area. He anticipates that if Utah doesn't get significant precipitation, they could become more frequent.