In March of 2022, a “super fog” settled across I-95 near Daytona Beach, Florida. Visibility dropped to less than 10 feet. In the fog, seventeen vehicles were involved in a series of collisions that sent many people to the hospital, including a child who had to be airlifted. Three people were killed.
What is super fog?
Regular fog forms when heat is radiated out from the earth’s surface into space at night. As the air close to the ground cools after the sun sets, if there is enough moisture in the atmosphere, fog can form.
Super fog forms when smoke and smoke particles from a fire mix with cold, moist air. If there is a wildfire nearby, water vapor can attach to the smoke particles and condense, creating super fog. This most often occurs at night, when smoke mixes with moisture in the atmosphere and condenses into a ground-level cloud, blinding anyone in its path.
Visibility from super fog can be less than 10 feet. What makes super fog especially dangerous to motorists is that it moves swiftly. Visibility can go from normal to close to zero quickly.
Where do these super fog phenomena take place?
Florida has a history of super fog leading to deadly car crashes. Tampa’s National Weather Service Meteorologist Dan Noah, said, “In Florida, about every 5 years, we have a terrible super fog accident on the interstate or some of our bigger highways with multiple fatalities and numerous vehicles.”
In January 2008, a Polk County, Florida, super fog led to a horrific 70-car pileup on I-4 that killed 5 people and injured 38 others. That super fog formed due to wildfire smoke. It wafted over from a smoldering prescribed burn near the interstate. Two small hills on each side of the road trapped the super fog directly over the highway, which led to the tragedy.
One of the deadliest super fog crashes took place on January 29, 2012, near Gainesville, Florida on I-75. Ten people lost their lives when super fog moved in from a nearby 62-acre brushfire. Witnesses described being unable to see more than a few feet.
In the 2022 Daytona Beach crashes, smoke from a prescribed burn of vegetation mixed with cool moist air in the overnight hours to form the deadly super fog. The Florida Highway Patrol issued a statement, claiming that they were not informed about the prescribed burn. They were therefore not monitoring the area for dangerously low visibility.
Is super fog only an issue in Florida?
However, super fog danger is not limited to Florida. On June 27, 2022, the North Carolina Forest Service issued an alert about the potential for super fog. It was associated with the 2,000-acre Ferebee Road wildfire in Hyde County, North Carolina, where officials closed multiple roadways near the fire as a result.
The National Weather Service is working to improve the forecasting of such incidents. “In order to get better at forecasting super fog, we need to know the areas where smoke is present from wildfires or controlled burns,” said Scott Spratt, a National Weather Service Meteorologist.
Super fog safety tips
The National Weather Service says that you should avoid driving in dense fog, but here are some safety tips to keep in mind if you confronted with dense fog or even super fog:
- Slow down and allow extra time to reach your destination.
- Make your vehicle visible to others – both ahead of you and behind you by using your low-beam headlights. This means your taillights will also be on.
- Use fog lights if you have them.
- Never use your high-beam lights. Using high beam lights causes glare, making it more difficult for you to see what’s ahead of you.
- Leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to account for sudden stops or changes in the traffic pattern.
- To ensure you are staying in the proper lane, follow the lines on the road with your eyes.
- In extremely dense fog where visibility is near zero, the best course of action is to first turn on your hazard lights, then simply pull into a safe location, such as a parking lot of a local business, and stop.
- If there is no parking lot or driveway to pull into, pull your vehicle off to the side of the road as far as possible. Once you come to a stop, turn off all lights except your hazard flashing lights, set the emergency brake, and take your foot off of the brake pedal to be sure the taillights are not illuminated so that other drivers don’t mistakenly run into you.
If you have been injured in an auto accident involving fog or another accident through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the experienced auto accident attorneys at Allen & Allen today for a free consultation, at 866-388-1307.