Tucson's summer rains bring relief from the torrid temperatures, but they also bring some of the most hazardous driving conditions of the year, according to Northwest Fire / Rescue.
During the summer's heat, oil from vehicle engines and tires, along with oils from the asphalt itself, rise to the surface and mingle on roadways. When rain falls, roads become very slick, especially in the first few minutes of a shower.
"Drivers should be aware of conditions and slow down," a Northwest Fire / Rescue release said. "Skidding is likely if you must brake suddenly, so it's advisable to allow extra stopping distance in front of you."
Summer rains frequently flood dry washes. The best advice is to never try to drive across any running water, even an amount that looks shallow. Fast-moving water in Tucson's flooded washes has been found to carry tree branches, utility poles, even refrigerators.
Northwest Fire / Rescue advises drivers to plan ahead for alternate routes that will avoid flooded roadways. Emergency personnel may have barricades at some, but not all, dangerous areas. Motorists who move or attempt to drive around barriers to drive through running washes put themselves and their passengers in danger. Drivers may be cited, as well as billed by the emergency service agencies called to rescue them.
Dust storms also come up suddenly in the summer and can restrict visibility to a few feet. Severe dust storms can appear as solid, moving walls of dust, reducing visibility suddenly and totally. "Driving in such a storm is extremely dangerous," the release said.
If you are caught in a dust storm, Northwest Fire / Rescue advises:
• Turn on your radio to catch severe weather bulletins;
• Reduce speed and turn on driving lights;
• If you cannot see 300 feet (the length of a football field,) pull off the roadway as far as possible, even as far as the right-of-way fence, and turn off your lights. "If you leave your lights on, other motorists may head toward you, thinking you're driving on the highway, and crash into you;"