By Jon Johnson
COCHISE COUNTY – Blowing dust that was a factor in multiple crashes on Interstate 10 near San Simon closed the freeway for about four hours, Sunday, for the second time that week.
The interstate was shut down at U.S. Highway 191 and at Lordsburg, New Mexico, from about 1:30 to 4:40 p.m. Afterward speed restrictions were in place. There were three separate collisions, involving eight vehicles, according to DPS Public Information Officer Kameron Lee. The incidents resulted in only minor injuries.
The closure forced a detour route through Safford along U.S. Highway 191 and U.S. Highway 70 for both eastbound and westbound freeway traffic, congesting Safford’s streets for a second time that week. Blowing dust and multiple crashes in New Mexico on Thursday also shut down the same stretch of freeway for numerous hours into the evening.
This time, it was the familiar area near San Simon that caused the Arizona Department of Transportation and Arizona Department of Public Safety so much headache last year, as the freeway was closed multiple times for dust and vehicular crashes, mostly during April and May.
The main cause of the problem last year was a denuded field near San Simon owned by David R. Turner, who eventually agreed to cease any tillage of his land, water it and apps a chemical stabilizer to form a crust. Turner was slow to comply, however, and the state pursued penalties up to $10,000 per day.
Turner originally agreed to apply a “tackifier” to 320 acres of his land closest to I-10. Turner owns 640 acres in the area.
The Arizona Department of Transportation advises travelers to steer vehicles onto the shoulder of highways and roadways during adverse conditions, such as low visibility caused by dust, and to turn off the vehicle’s lights and for drivers to keep their feet off the brake. That way, other vehicles do not see the parked vehicle and think the road goes in that direction. DPS also advises to stay in the vehicle with seat belts on until it is safe to drive again.