Dust storms have been shutting down part of Interstate 15 for years. But now, for the first time, the Idaho Transportation Department is cleaning up all of the accumulation, after a record number of winter closures.
ITD public information specialist Bruce King said a typical wind storm coats the roadway with 4 to 5 inches of dust, which crews then wet and push off onto the shoulder, creating a big mess.
"Really, the Transportation Department is at the mercy of Mother Nature there," said King.
And boy did she roar this past winter, closing the stretch of I-15 between Idaho Falls and Roberts twice as many times as normal due to dust storms.
In January, Sedar Beckman, an Osgood farmer, showed our crew around his heavily coated land; even cattle were covered.
"(It's) sickening when we're sitting there and our livelihood is at stake and we have to watch our livestock suffer," said Sedar Beckman.
ITD is picking up all that dirt and hauling it from the side of the interstate to a gravel pit. Crews started work at the end of June. King said they're carrying an estimated 30 loads a day.
"Reclaiming, if you will, or just filling mined areas in that gravel pit in the Ucon area," said King.
King said ITD planted 4,000 trees alongside the I-15 in 1995 as a wind shield, but it's not effective past 20 or 30 mph. He said there's not much anyone can do to stop it.
"In large measure, we're cleaning out these large piles of soil so we have a place to put new accumulation," said King.
The cleanup efforts have not interrupted traffic flow on I-15, but should make for a smoother roadway.
King said ITD crews expect to finish the project on Thursday.