Anyone who has driven the I-10 interstate from LA to Phoenix has probably encountered a sandstorm. I think they are on a regular schedule to roll through daily. If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky. If you have, did you know what to do? Did you panic? Trust me, no matter how alpha you think you are, if you aren’t prepared when encountering a sandstorm, you will pucker up a bit at first. But that is what Skillset is here for, to prepare you for the next time you encounter one so that you know how to survive a sandstorm or haboob, which is what most people call them.
A sandstorm occurs when high winds roll across an area with dry soil or sand. When this happens, the wind kicks dust and carries it along with the wind. Some can move at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and be as tall as a 5-story building. If you have ever seen news clips of one rolling in, it just looks like a wall of dirt moving across the sky. However, If you are in its path, this can be quite terrifying.
If you are caught in a sandstorm without shelter or protection, it will feel like you are getting rubbed with sandpaper on your skin. It is not a great feeling and can significantly damage your eyes and nose. This is why you must know how to survive a sandstorm.
We will cover a couple of scenarios when you might find yourself in the path of an oncoming sandstorm so that you know what to do. So whether you are on foot, or driving through the desert, follow the advice below.
Look for Shelter – look for anything to take cover behind. A rock, tree, or building will work. The sandstorm will still come. Do your best to cover your skin as much as possible. If you cannot find a structure to hide behind, drop down into a crouch and cover your head with your hands. A sandstorm can reek, so covering your mouth, nose, eyes, and ears is paramount.
Protect Yourself – covering as much of your body with shelter and clothing is crucial to you making it out of the sandstorm unscathed. As mentioned, focus on covering your face first, then ensure as much of your skin is protected as possible with any extra clothing you have.
Wait – your visibility will be near zero when in the middle of a sandstorm. So it is best to stay put and let it pass. Be patient, don’t panic, and just make sure you are sheltered and protected the best you can.
Pull Off the Road – this is critical. I know your gut instinct will be to power through, don’t. As mentioned, your visibility will be near zero, so plowing through in a hunk of metal could end badly.
If you find yourself in an approaching sandstorm, don’t panic. Turn on your headlights and hazards, gradually slow down, and find a safe place to pull off the road. Completely exit the highway if possible. Do not stop in a travel or emergency lane. If visibility drops, make sure to use the highway markers to find your way off the road. Once you have safely gotten completely off the road, turn off your lights and set your emergency brake. It is essential not to leave your lights on and keep your foot on the brake. The reason for this is that other drivers approaching behind you might use your lights as a guide, which may result in them running into the back of you.
Stay Inside Your Vehicle – not only stay inside your car but make sure that you stay buckled in your seat belt. Keep your windows rolled up and your vents closed as you wait for the storm to pass.
Like everything, the key is to stay ready. If you are traveling to a place known for sandstorms, make sure you take the proper steps to be prepared if you encounter one. If you plan to be on foot a lot, then make sure you have goggles or a full-face mask to protect your eyes, nose, and mouth. Don’t forget about your ears. A bandana or some sort of cloth to wrap around your head is ideal. Make sure that you have proper clothing as well. Gloves are also a good idea.
Always have water on hand, whether on foot or in your car. This is just a best life practice; hydration is essential! Stay safe out there, and watch out for those haboobs!