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Drought conditions creating a dust up on North Dakota's gravel roads

Highway workers are struggling to keep up with mother nature.

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NORTH DAKOTA — Low visibility, and bad road conditions are what rural drivers are facing thanks to ongoing drought conditions.

Rural gravel roads might be more dusty than usual. It's a concern Governor Doug Burgum brought up at a drought roundtable Monday, June 14.

Burgum said the low visibility from dust is concerning the North Dakota State Highway Patrol, worrying it could cause more crashes. Those concerns were echoed by Korey Bitz from Lamoure County.

"Right now, if you drive down a gravel road in Lamoure, it is dust behind you, you can't see a thing," Bitz said.

WDAY Stormtracker Meteorologist Jesse Ritka says some of residents have spent weeks battling these dust clouds, since the dry weather means lots of loose top soil.

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"Once you're in the city, you've got trees, you've got houses blocking the wind, but out in more rural areas, there's not a whole lot to block the wind," Ritka said.

Clay County Engineer Dave Overbo says they have 750 miles of county roads to maintain. But visibility isn't their only concern, they're also having trouble keeping the gravel packed down.

"It's virtually impossible with these dry conditions, none of the gravel wants to tie down," Overbo said.

Overbo's maintenance crews are focusing on the more-traveled gravel roads.

"They pack down the gravel right behind you and it keeps the road in better shape longer, and keeps it smoother," Overbo said.

Overbo says that drivers who find themselves in a thick dust cloud, to treat it just like a storm. Stay careful, and pull over if necessary.

The visibility concerns are worse in central North Dakota, where they're going through extreme and exceptional drought conditions according to the drought monitor.

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