Dust storms are inevitable this time of year - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Dust storms are inevitable this time of year

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TOPPENISH, Wash.-- Two big dust storms, this week, fueled by high winds caused major backups for drivers in the Lower Valley and several car accidents, all because they couldn't see.

The dust storms on Sunday and Tuesday caused several accidents with about a dozen cars involved.
Workers who were in the fields Tuesday and say you couldn't see anything, but this time of the year that's not out of the ordinary.

"We're just working right here, could just see the clouds coming in. Just like a big storm cloud coming through," said Mike Lewis with Wapato Irrigation Project.

Mike Lewis and his crew were installing irrigation lines Tuesday, in a field on Highway 97 just south of Toppenish, when they saw the dust storm kick up.

"It came all the way. Couldn't even see those houses from here. You know here, we're not very far from there," said Myron Shock.

They say this kind of thing happens all the time in the spring when farmers are getting their fields ready to plant seed, the soil is loose and winds can easily pick it up.

"The farmers right now are plowing up their fields, getting ready for the next crop and it's just this time of the year. You got your winds and your dust and it just happens this time of the year," Lewis said.

"In neither one of these events that we've experienced was there agricultural activity taking place. The fields have already been turned," said Lt. Terry Liebrecht with the Washington State Patrol.

Liebrecht says there's nothing they can do in situations like these. Farmers have to get their fields turned, so people just need to be careful and aware.

"That situational awareness is your first step. You need to be aware of who's ahead of you, who's behind of you, what's around you," said Lt. Liebrecht.

Liebrecht says if you're caught in a dust storm, pull over, stay in your car, pull your emergency brake and wait it out.

Lewis says he's been in quite a few dust storms and they can be very dangerous if you're not careful.

"Take your time, be careful. It's just like driving into pitch dark. Once you drive through that you lose all your visibility," said Lewis.