AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Texas Department of Transportation said it is advising motorists that conditions will be worse tomorrow due to high winds and to expect road closures due to low visibility and wildfire.
According to TxDOT, the National Weather Service’s Amarillo office reported that anticipated winds on Wednesday could be of greater magnitude than was experienced on Friday, Dec. 10. The winds blew smoke, from wildfires, and dirt limited visibility. TxDOT said, that Friday, it closed major roadways for public safety.
“Strong winds and areas with low visibility can be a dangerous hazard when driving,” says Amarillo District Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Blair Johnson. “Wildfire prevention and personal safety are crucial. If you don’t have to drive during this next high wind event, then don’t. But if you don’t have a choice, then slow down and drive to conditions.”
TxDOT has released tips for driving in windy conditions:
- Always wear your seatbelt and keep your hands firmly on the wheel.
- Secure your loads.
- Watch the weather
- Be aware of high-profile vehicles – Large trucks, vans, buses, and those towing cargo, are vulnerable to losing control or tipping over in high winds. They can also create turbulence for motorcycles and other small vehicles. Drivers should pay extra attention to the road and anticipate gusts in windy conditions.
- Keep your distance and keep your eyes open and on the road. You should always be aware of our surroundings when driving, but even more so in windy weather.
- Be aware of anything on the side of the road that could blow into your path, such as branches, trees, tumbleweeds and other debris. If there are trees or other vegetation on the side of the road, look for how much it is moving, and if anything could possibly detach.
- If you see a truck driving ahead that is losing its load, give it a lot of room. Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles to give yourself and other motorists time and space to react and avoid any debris in the road.
- Turn on your headlights to see better through dust and dirt if the wind kicks up.
- Give all vehicles a lot of space. They may be forced to veer or suddenly change lanes as a result of a sudden or strong gust of wind.
- Keep your hands on the wheel – Heavy winds make it harder to steer and handle a vehicle, so keep a firm grip on the wheel.
- Slow down and drive to conditions – Driving slower than the posted speed limit helps lessen the dangers of wind and helps you better control the vehicle. Not only do you have less control of a vehicle the faster it is moving, but you also have less time to react. Sudden gusts of wind can cause problems that no one will be able to anticipate. If you are driving slower, you will have a better chance of avoiding them.
- If winds are severe enough to prevent safe driving, pull over into a safe parking area (not the side of the road) and stop. Ensure you park away from trees, power lines, or other tall objects that could fall onto your vehicle.
- Never drive over downed power lines as the high-voltage wires may still be alive and very dangerous. Also avoid anything that ma be touching downed lines, including vehicles or tree branches.
- Report downed power lines to Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-1999 or by calling 9-1-1.
Driving in Side Winds
- Side winds tend to be the scariest as a driver, because if they are strong enough, they can blow you off course. If you feel the side wind changing the direction of your vehicle, gently steer in the opposite direction to bring yourself back. Do not panic or turn your wheel quickly or suddenly. Make only smooth and gentle movements.
Driving in Head Winds
- Head and tail winds are not as difficult to deal with, as they are only likely to alter your speed slightly. You may find yourself having to adjust your acceleration to compensate.
TxDOT also has information and tips to help prevent wildfires:
- Avoid driving and/or parking in tall, dry grass. The underside of your vehicle may start wildfires if exposed to dry vegetation.
- Dragging chains may create sparks causing a wildfire. Secure trailer safety chains and ensure they will not come in contact with the road.
- Underinflated tires and/or tire failure pose a wildfire hazard. Wheel rims may produce sparks if contact is made with the pavement.
- Always obey local burn bans and outdoor burning restrictions.
According to TxDOT, Firewise Coordinator Kari Hines with the Texas A&M Forest Service’s Mitigation and Prevention Department says the potential for powerline fires is high.
“We are making an extra plea to the public to avoid any heat or spark producing activity,” Hines says. “If we can reduce the number of preventable wildfires started, our first responders won’t have to deal with as many.”