Emergency crews discuss experience in rare dust storm

Working inside the dust storm
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Lawrence County emergency crews are still stunned by the dust storm that caused two multi-car wrecks Sunday afternoon.

Walnut Ridge Police Chief Chris Kirksey said he grew up in the area and had never seen anything like Sunday's storm.

Kirksey spent time at the fatal accident on Highway 412 trying to prevent another wreck from happening.

He said it was very difficult for him to see anything past a few feet in front of his car.

Paramedic Wendell Jones, owner of Arkansas Excellent Transport, said the same thing.

Jones was transporting a patient with his partner when they drove into the dust storm around Portia.

"I felt my partner that was driving slamming on his brakes," Jones said. "Next thing I felt was sliding and we bumped a vehicle. You couldn't see out, the dust was so bad. Then what happened next was a vehicle started hitting us and then a vehicle started hitting them."

Jones said he got out of the ambulance to get people back in their cars where it was safe.

He said they have masks but were not prepared for something like that storm.

Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Frank Owens was out at several locations helping those involved in the multi-car crashes.

He said they had to get boxes of masks and goggles to pass out to emergency responders.

Owens said as of Monday he had not heard of any health concerns from his crew because of the dust.

Kirksey said Walnut Ridge did not see a lot of debris left behind from the high winds.

Owens said the fire department would spend time Monday cleaning their equipment and trucks.

Kirksey advised drivers to stay out of dust storms because of the low visibility.

If a driver does find themselves in the middle of a low visibility situation, Kirksey said there are two things that can be done.

"Drive as slow as possible," Kirksey said. "I mean if you can't see, if you can, find a place to pull over say a parking lot of a business or a driveway. I would definitely try to get off the road as far as I could."

Kirksey said if something like this were to happen again, they would be ready for it.

He said they plan to add police vehicles with the lights on at entrances to town with the hopes of preventing other fatal accidents.

Kirksey said they will do whatever they can to keep people safe in another dust storm situation.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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