Last night, the entire Phoenix area was hit by an unusually large dust storm that blew in from the southeastern part of the state. This particular type of dust storm, or sand storm, is called a haboob. According to this article, the whole thing was about 100 miles wide and was moving between 50-60mph as it blanketed the whole valley.

After living here for 13 years, I’ve seen dust storms before, of course. One time, I watched one come in from a far distance because I worked on the 18th floor of a downtown Phoenix building, and that was one of the coolest weather-events I’ve ever seen. It was literally a wall of dust, creeping ever closer and swallowing up everything it touched.

Last night’s storm was even bigger and more violent than most of these storms, and I honestly thought there was a tornado coming through the neighborhood once it hit. I was in the house, eating dinner, when I looked outside and saw that the daylight was refracted and dulled by tan dust, being whipped through the air in dense clouds. My trees were swaying hard, and my Chilean mesquite was bending in a way that made my heart sink. If that thing snapped, I was gonna be super pissed. It’s my best tree, and the one that’s centered in the middle of my yard. I watched anxiously as everything was blown around the yard, praying my little trees would survive this. The big eucalyptus in the front yard did well. In the past, that tree has lost a LOT of large branches in heavy winds. I was psyched that just a few think sticks were on the ground this morning, instead.

I thought my french doors in the kitchen were going to blow out, though! They were doing a horrible creaking and groaning sound, as the seals around the door were tested by the super-fast winds. Fortunately, everything survived intact at my house and I’m just so grateful.

Since I missed seeing the storm rolling in, I didn’t get any photos. But I had to share these that I found on the local newspaper’s website:

It really seems like a huge plume of smoke or something. Or a deadly, Stephen King-esque fog that contains all manner of evil monsters and flesh-eating creatures. That last photo above is a good indicator of how everything looked when the storm was right on top of you– no visibility at all, and the sun was blocked out, giving everything an eerie rust-colored glow. It’s creepy, but also kind of beautiful at the same time.

We get some freaky weather out here. Dust storms are one thing, but we also get the monsoons and microbursts. During one microburst about 10 years ago, a tree was knocked out of the ground at the roots and landed right behind where I had just been walking with Malcolm. If we were only seconds slower, that tree would have landed on us; and since it was a very, very large old tree, we might not have made it. Crazy!) There are flash floods in some areas, too, when the rains fall extra hard and fast. Rain out here is gorgeous. It has a clean, fresh smell that wakes everything and everyone up. You can see rain falling in certain areas from a distance, as the clouds roll over the landscape; and often times, the sky is blue and the sun is shining in the opposite direction. We do get sunshowers sometimes. Arizona is more than just the frickin’ annoying “dry heat” everyone thinks of first; and when we do get weather, we all seem to enjoy it and savor it. This could be one of the only states in the country that people gripe and moan because of days of endless sunshine, and celebrate on days when there is rain.

It’s an intriguing place.

Oh, and I just heard that we might be getting another dust storm tonight. Another haboob? Perhaps. We’ll see!


4 responses »

  1. Oh no you don’t. Not gonna fall for the old ‘look at my Haboob pics’ thing. I know your eyes are up there. Nice try. ;P

    Nice post/cool pics. We deserved a little treat after that 120-degree weekend.

  2. I wrote “Blame the Haboob” in the dirt on the back of my car. I’m not lazy… I’ve just been through a Haboob!

  3. The name comes from the MIddle East where those storms are pretty common place. It’s an Arabic word and those storms usually occur in the Sudan.

    What amazing photos! We showed video of it here and I immediately thought of you. Glad no real damage was done.

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