Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Humongous Haboob

It was like something out of a science fiction movie - a roiling blanket of dust about 5000 feet high and 60 miles wide, engulfing most of the Phoenix area and bringing traffic in the air and on the ground to a standstill.  It was the brown version of the "black blizzards" that smothered the Midwest in the 1930's.  It knocked out power for thousands of people and closed Sky Harbor Airport for over an hour yesterday.  We have dust storms here on a regular basis, but even our meteorologists were awed by this one.  On video it looked like The Haboob That Ate Arizona. 

Southwestern dust storms are named after the haboobs in the Middle East; the name is from an Arabic word meaning "strong wind," and the storms certainly have that.  Last night's monster was moving around 50 miles an hour.  Fast-moving haboobs are one reason carports went out of fashion around here; leave your vehicle outside during one of these storms and the paint can be sand-blasted right off.

Today the carwashes in town were jammed with people whose cars had been "haboobed."  A local radio station is offering a prize to the person who sends in the photo of the dirtiest car.  Buildings and patio furniture are wearing a layer of grime and tree branches are down everywhere.  Grit in your air conditioner, anyone?  Fortunately our neighborhood was just touched by the edge of the storm; I had to wash my car but it didn't look like a movable sand dune.

Needless to say, anyone with dust, mold, or pollen allergies is miserable here today.  I really can't believe that doctors used to send asthma sufferers to Arizona because the air was supposedly better here.  Maybe they were just trying to get rid of the patients they perceived as whiners.

"It takes a real storm in the average person's life to make him realize how much worrying he has done over the squalls." ~Bruce Barton

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