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    Posted April 28, 2010 by
    Meteor Crater, Arizona
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Severe weather

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    Deja Vu Arizona I-40 Closed Again!


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     IAMCNUSA is staying near Meteor Crater and documenting both heavy dust conditions and unusual or interesting sights along the way.
    - nsaidi, CNN iReport producer

    Today, at noon, the I-40 freeway was closed for the second time in two weeks (see iReport Dust Storm I-40 Closure Exit 233 to Winslow, AZ (approx. 20 miles). The current closures have occurred between Winslow (exit 253) for all westbound lanes and Two Guns (exit 230) for the eastbound lanes. The traffic, at Two Guns (exit 230) is being turned around and directed to Flagstaff, AZ until the I-40 is reopened.

    Officer J.T. (Josh) Henson of the Arizona Highway Patrol (photo of patrol vehicle) has stopped eastbound traffic at Meteor Crater exit 230. Office Henson has been in the Winslow area since 1989 and says, “This is the worst I have seen in the last two years.” In 2009, the I-40 was closed 5 times. This is the fourth closure of the I-40, so far this year.

    We saw one vehicle traveling in the westbound lanes of the I-40 and it was a State Highway Patrol vehicle. We also saw a rental RV vehicle enter the westbound lanes at exit 233. Our only thought is that they may not be aware of the seriousness of this storm.

    The NOAA reports the high wind and dust storm warning will last until 10:00 pm. Officer Henson is hopeful the freeway can be opened before that time.

    The winds are currently gusting in the 35 to 40 mile range. It was very difficult to stand on the freeway and speak with Officer Henson. My husband had to hold on to me to so I could keep my balance.


    It is 6:05 p.m. and the I-40 remains closed.  The steady winds are currently at 50 mph, with gusts of 69 mph.  Our motorhome feels much like our boat, we took into a Canadian Island inlet to protect ourselves from 6' swells.  It's time for Dramamine!


    7:11 pm...the winds are steady at 30 mph, the sky is clearing and we are having gusts averaging 55 mph.  There is still no traffic on the I-40.


    8:01 pm...the sun has set, the winds have appeared to clear off most of the dust (in this area) and there is no traffic on the I-40, either direction.


    9:13 pm...the stars are out, the sky is clear...there is no traffic on I-40, either direction.  Our RV neighbors in the space next to us left early this morning and have yet to return.  We hope they are safe!  The wind continues at a steady 35 mph, with gusts of 54 mph.  Even though our windows are closed we can feel dust grit everywhere!


    10:15 p.m., no...can't sleep, the winds are rocking us too much!  The I-40 remains closed,both directions (this may be a record, will have to check!).  The only thing moving outside is the the wind through the trees, the stars, and the full Moon!


    11:54 p.m., the winds continue to rock us about.  NOAA has extended the high wind warning until 2:00 a.m..  The I-40 remains closed in both directions.


    7:39 a.m., the I-40 eastbound is open and moving at a normal pace.  I-40 westbound has been stalled for the past 30 minutes and is just now beginning to slowly move.  An accident has occurred at Exit 230, four Big Rigs have rear-ended in the 'hammer lane' (left lane).  The CB chatter reports, "The four rigs are 'grille to grille' and 'bumper to bumper'."  A 'band-aid buggy' (ambulance) is on its way to the accident, as well as a second tow truck and a big rig repair truck.  The eastbound truckers are advising all westbound drivers to move into the 'granny lane' (right lane), but be prepared to stop.

    One tow truck is currently at the scene of the accident trying to get the rigs separated from each other.  There have been no reports, on the CB, of injuries.

    The eastbound big rig drivers are providing driving updates to the westbound drivers, to help them out.  The eastbound drivers are also reporting a combination of rain with snow will greet the westbound truckers.  The reaction to this news is greeted with expletives best left out of this story.

    Update 8:48 a.m., the westbound lanes of the I-40 are moving!  Looks like the accident was finally cleared allowing these rigs to get moving their loads to Tracy and Stockton and Phoenix...they are all concerned about meeting their deadlines.  One trucker said "it's taken me 2 1/2 hours to go 20 miles."  Another trucker reported that I-40 westbound was backed up to the New Mexico border, because of yesterday's closure.

    These guys really deserve a big thank you from their companies for hanging in there.  This is not easy work!  You have to feel for these folks, they sure aren't going to make a ton of money when they are sitting at a truck stop, or stuck on these freeways!

    Update (possibly, the final one) 12:02 p.m:

    Last night I posted an update at 9:13 that noted our concern for our RV neighbors who had left early yesterday morning. 

    Ray and Mary, full-time RVer's from Bandera, TX, are back in their 5th Wheel safe and sound.   They had quite an experience, considering they were just headed 20 miles east to Winslow to shop at Wal*Mart and stock up on groceries before their planned trip to the Grand Canyon.

    Mary said, “If we had just gotten out of Winslow 20 minutes earlier, we would have been able to get back home.”

    Ray and Mary waited at an Indian Trading Post on the west end of Winslow hoping for news of the I-40 opening.  They heard that it might open at 7 p.m. and then they heard it might not open at all.  With a truck full of groceries to worry about, they purchased a large tub, tossed all of the perishable food into it and loaded it up with ice.  They were lucky and found a hotel room, with a small refrigerator in it for some of their groceries.  At that point, everything seemed to be working out for Ray and Mary; a room to stay in, a television to see some news about the I-40 closure, and a place to keep the food fresh.   

    So far, so good?   Not.  The television station, based in New Mexico, provided no local news on the I-40 closure. Then, the power in Winslow went out, due to the high winds.  Ray and Mary were able to keep up on the road condition by using the 511 feature on their cell phone. With no power and no local news on T.V. they decided to just go to sleep at 8:00 p.m. and get up early in the morning to head back to their RV.

    Thursday morning at 7 a.m., Ray and Mary got on the I-40 westbound, with a full tank of gas, their groceries and perishables safely packed on ice, to find themselves in a 2 hour back up because of the four rig accident that occurred at Exit 230.  There were no local radio stations reporting the accident and reason for the I-40 back up.  Ray and Mary finally arrived at the Meteor Crater RV Park at 9 a.m. this morning.

    Both, Ray and Mary say they are very happy to be safely in their RV.  Now, they just have all those groceries to put away.

    Like us, Ray and Mary will be heading west tomorrow.  We have all had enough of this wind and dust.







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