Dust storms, or ‘haboobs’ as they are commonly known, often cause widespread destruction and inconvenience when they strike. Usually reserved for places with large amounts of dust and sand, such as the Arabian Peninsula and the Sahara Desert, haboobs bring huge clouds of dust hurtling across land, engulfing all in their paths within thick smog. Although fairly common in some countries, dust clouds are rarely caught on camera, due to the fact that they are very fast-moving and, once they are present, visibility is too bad to capture them in their glory.
When caught on camera though, dust clouds can make for amazing spectacles, as one local Phoenix resident found out on Saturday when he was lucky enough to catch a one hurtling through his village. The photographer managed to capture the angry looking haboob as it headed straight towards him – a sight that would have had most people running for cover. The amazing video shows the sheer speed and ferocity of one of nature’s most prolific forces – within seconds of the dark cloud appearing, it quickly swallows an entire community, before swooping over the keen videographer’s head and leaving him in almost total darkness.
Watch the video here:
In fact, dust clouds are not uncommon in Arizona. Thanks to the state’s dry climate and vast desert lands, high winds often create the perfect conditions for a haboob to form. This particular haboob was aided by gusts reaching up to 40 mph; faster gales can mean even deadlier dust clouds.
The main dangers of haboobs stem from the severe lack of visibility these storms create for drivers, and also the respiratory problems they can lead to. Saturday’s haboob was no exception in terms of destruction; local officials at the Department of Public Safety issued a statement saying that the poor visibility lead to several crashes and responses to four crashed each involving several vehicles. This subsequently led to the closure of part of the Arizona 347.
Dust storms are not only dangerous to people; they can also cause damage to practically anything. If the keen photographer that filmed the footage of Saturday’s haboob used a mobile phone to do so, he would have done well to ensure he had adequate mobile phone insurance; dust can easily get into these devices and completely ruin them.
Last Saturday’s events are precisely why the Arizona Department of Transportation has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of dust storms, which are fairly common during summer months. Its innovative campaign asks members of the public to submit a Haiku – a Japanese poem that consists of 17 syllables – to describe some of the dangers presented by the occurrences. The Department asks people to submit their entries via Twitter with the hashtag #haboobhaiku. Entries must each demonstrate why it is important not to attempt to drive through a haboob.
Storms like last Saturday’s haboob, which ripped through Tuscon, Casa Grande, Phoenix, Glendale and Scottsdale, can create zero visibility and the Department is urging people not to drive if the area is expecting one. Speaking about the new campaign, Department spokesperson, Timothy Tait, said: “The challenge … is really designed to raise awareness that this is a problem and that drivers shouldn’t expect to sail through a dust storm.”
The competition aims to bring a bit of fun, but while also raising important awareness. Entries must be 17 syllables, and must be divided into phrases of 5, 7 and 5.
Last summer, on 5th July 2011, Arizona experienced one of its biggest ever haboobs. A huge dust cloud measuring at least 70 miles wide swept across parts of Arizona. It was estimated at being a mile tall and moved at speeds of around 55 mph, in a north west direction, creating scenes and images that mimicked scenes from a doomsday movie. People who witnessed the phenomenon said that the enormous cloud suddenly turned day time into night time and covered the valleys with thick dust and sand. Aside from creating terrible and dangerous driving conditions, the troublesome dust cloud also wreaked havoc with people’s allergies and breathing problems.
The storm was also caught on video – it’s sheer drama has led to this home video receiving over three million hits on YouTube: