How to stay safe on the roads during low visibility

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 9:46 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — A downburst occurred near the Jerome/Cassia county line on Saturday at about 4:15 p.m., resulting in a major car accident.

A downburst occurs when either rain cooled, or evaporationally cooled air aloft builds up. The higher density of this cooler air causes rapid sinking motion, or downward directed wind. As this wind hits the ground, it quickly spreads out in all directions, causing a very fast wind.

In Saturday’s case, dry air below the thunderstorm caused rain to evaporate before hitting the ground, causing the cooler air aloft, and leading to the downburst.

“Some vehicles slowed down and stopped along the roadway,” said Idaho State Police Sgt. Michael Wendler. “Other vehicles travelling along the roadway weren’t able to see the stopped ones, causing the accident.”

Because everyone had their seatbelts on, the incident could’ve been a lot worse. However, more could have been done on the roadways to prevent the accident from happening.

“If the weather is bad enough where you can’t see at all and the road isn’t shut down yet, the best thing to do is to find a safe spot off the road, pull over, and stop,” said Megan Stark, Public Information Officer at the Idaho Transportation Department.

Once you’re in the low visibility situation, officials say it’s imperative to stay in your vehicle.

“Remain in your vehicle, especially if a crash occurs. It’s going to be very jarring at first, and one of the first instincts will be to get out of your car as quickly as you can. Unfortunately, we’ve had people exit vehicles in low visibility situations, and they’ve been subsequently hit,” said Wendler.

Of course, preparation is key in events like this. “Before you travel, pull up ITD’s 511 app,” said Stark. “Look at the location you’re traveling to and look along the route to see if any crashes, issues, or alerts are occurring on your way to your destination.”

More information on ITD’s 511 app can be found here.

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