Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dispatch from the Road: Life Can Change in an Instant

The sky turned yellow and dark today in Casa Grande, Arizona, near the metropolis of Phoenix. A major winter storm was blowing through the desert, and as we left Tucson the wind was already whipping up. By the time we reached Picacho huge billowing clouds of yellow dust obscured the freeway. It was a dangerous day on the road. A chain reaction accident involving 13 cars and 9 trucks killed three and injured many others. A fire had started, and when we passed the scene a few hours after the crash, the trucks were still smoldering. A second chain reaction involved a dozen cars or so, and happened only a few minutes ahead of us on the highway. It was a stressful day for us, and a tragic day for some. My heart goes out to those who lost family members in the accidents.

Dust storms are a normal phenomenon of deserts, but they are made worse by poor agricultural practices and droughts. According to news reports, the worst dust of this particular storm was the result of plowing in nearby agricultural fields. I find myself wondering if the agribusinesses take high winds into account when they plow potentially dusty dry fields near major transportation corridors. A sign on a highway warning of dust is too easily ignored, and does not absolve those responsible when things go terribly wrong. This sort of tragedy is too common in the Phoenix region, as well as back home in the Central Valley.