(Steve Miller/Maricopa360.com, August 12, 2012) — Sounds like something from a science fiction movie, doesn’t it? Actually the word “haboob” comes from the Arabic word habb, meaning “wind.”
A haboob is a wall of dust that results from a downburst of air. Once the air is forced downward, it is then pushed forward by the front of a storm cell. Sand, dust, and other debris is carried along with it. Haboobs can occur at any time in Arizona’s Sonoran desert but we see them more often in the summer monsoon months of June through September. Winds can exceed 35 MPH and dust can rise up to 3,000 feet into the air giving the storm a dramatic, formidable appearance.
Under the right conditions, these dust storms can last for hours. Before they were recognized as such in Arizona, the term haboob referred to the strong wind that occurs along the southern edges of the Sahara in the Sudan.
The biggest danger posed by haboobs is to motorists unfortunate to be caught on the roadway during one of these events. Dust can blind drivers by limiting visibility to only a few feet, Especially on Interstate highways where higher speeds and more cars pose a greater danger. More than one fatal chain reaction crash has been attributed to blinding dust.
Photo by Howard WaGGner/Maricopa360.com