Surviving a Sandstorm

You don't hear too many stories about people being caught in sandstorms. This is largely because you pretty much need to be in a desert climate to be in any danger. One thing to keep in mind is that whenever you are in an area with the potential for a sandstorm i.e. there is a lot of sand and wind, you should wear long pants, socks, and shoes. This is important based on the knowledge of how sand moves whereby your feet and lower legs are more likely to be “burned” by the abrasion of sand than the upper part of your body.

Having said that, here are specific recommendations for surviving a sandstorm.

  1. You'll want to protect your nose and mouth while still allowing you to breath. This can be accomplished with a wet bandanna that will filter out sand particles as you breath through it.
  2. Use a small amount of petroleum jelly to lubricate the insides of your nostrils.
    Doing so will minimize the drying of mucous membranes.
  3. If you're in a group, stay together. Since visibility will be poor during the sandstorm, link arms or use a rope to avoid becoming separated. This is particularly important for keeping track of anyone who becomes injured or otherwise incapacitated.
  4. If you happen to be driving a car, pull off the road as far as possible on the shoulder. Turn off your lights and set the emergency brake. Also make sure your taillights are not illuminated to prevent other vehicles from thinking that your location represents the road which would result in a collision.
  5. If possible, move to higher ground. Sand grains travel across the surface of the earth mostly by saltation, or bouncing from place to place. Because grains of sand will not bounce high on grass, dirt, or sand, moving to solid high ground can improve your situation significantly. Even a few feet higher can make a big difference. The exception to this is when a sandstorm is accompanied by thunderstorms which bring with them the risk of lightning. If you do hear thunder or see lightning during a sandstorm, do not move to high ground.

The good news is that once the sandstorm passes, you are likely to be able to continue with whatever activity you were previously engaged in.

References:
The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook – Travel by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht

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