Arizona monsoon: What is a haboob?

Arizona monsoon: What is a haboob?
and last updated 2023-06-15 11:41:51-04

Dust storms can be some of the most dramatic weather events we see in the Valley each year.

Another word for a dust storm is “haboob,” which is Arabic for the word blown.

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Haboobs are giant walls of dust created from high winds rushing out of a collapsing thunderstorm.

Cold air in front of the storm rushes down at an incredible rate, picking up massive amounts of dust and sand and blowing them into the air.

As the dust storm builds, it can completely block out the sun, making it nearly impossible to see just a few feet in front of you.

MAP: Watch dust levels rise as storms roll into the Valley

The wall of dust typically reaches heights between 1,500 and 4,000 feet and can stretch as far as 100 miles wide. To put that into perspective, that's the distance between Phoenix and Tucson.

Walls of dust can stretch as far as 100 miles wide

However, the Valley has seen dust storms that are even bigger. On July 5, 2011, the biggest haboob ever observed in the Valley rolled in.  It was estimated at over 5,000 feet tall and stretched the entire length of the Valley, from Goodyear to Apache Junction.

If you get caught outside during a dust storm, seek shelter immediately or you may be hurt by flying rocks and debris being thrown around by winds up to 50 mph.

If you’re driving when a dust storm hits, remember to pull off to the right, take your foot off of the brake and turn off your car’s engine and lights. Wait there until visibility improves.

The effects of dust storms can linger for days, worsening our air quality and causing many people difficulty breathing.

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