Dust storm causes visibility problems

Courtesy photo: Muleshoe Police Department The city of Muleshoe received a blanket of dust, and many Bailey County residents were forced to pull over until it was safe to drive.

Kevin Wilson

A fast-moving storm blew through the area Monday afternoon, creating roiling dust clouds thousands of feet tall and smothering roads and highways with thick dust that dropped visibility to nearly zero in some places.

The wall of dust darkened skies and stopped traffic, while the winds caused widespread minor damage and toppled trees.

As of 5 p.m., authorities in Curry and Bailey counties had no reports accidents resulting from dust that was ushered in by a cold front.

Steve Clifton, an Muleshoe patrol officer, said the Texas Department of Public Safety had issued a weather warning from the National Weather Service of a “very strong cold front moving at 55 mph.”

By the time the notice came through, many motorists in Bailey County had already pulled over and contacted authorities to see if the weather was something more serious, like a tornado.

“It was a very accurate forecast,” said Clifton. “(It was) just a little short on the notice.”

The National Weather Service in Lubbock northerly winds of 40 mph, gusting to 60 mph with the arrival of the cold front. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal the highest wind gust reported in the region was 71 mph in Friona.

Kim Webskowski of Portales was heading to Clovis to get a new car battery when she came into what she called, “a wall of dirt,” on U.S. 70.

Martha Morris of Bovina was coming home from her landlord’s place, where she frequently goes to help with livestock. When she turned west onto state highway 86, “there was such a vivid contrast between the blue and the dirt.”

Morris wasn’t concerned about the weather, noting that dust storms of lower magnitudes happen all the time. But it was still no picnic.

“As soon as I got home,” Morris said, “the dirt hit and I couldn’t get inside fast enough.”

Clifton said while the sky cleared up, motorists were being advised to proceed slowly and try to stay moving if possible — and if they stopped, to pull completely off the road.

Tuesday calls for north winds of 10 mph to 20 mph, no precipitation and highs in the mid-60s.