Unless you’re on network television, it’s not a “haboob”. It’s a dust storm. And, when it rolls in like the one that came through last night, it’s absolutely awesome in the truest sense of the word.
Years ago I watched a show about Hollywood special effects through the ages and it showed the special effects guy many, many decades ago using a couple of round pieces of steel wool rolling across a model landscape to simulate the Dust Bowl.
That’s what last night’s storm looked like … a churning, rolling wall of dust gradually covering more and more of the sky until you found yourself smacked in the face with 30-plus MPH winds that stung your skin thanks to the minute dust particles being driven into you by the advancing storm front.
Sometimes there’s a thunderstorm behind the dust, sometimes there isn’t – Arizona isn’t like most places, where clouds on the horizon mean rain is on the way. Here, it’s more like that cumulus cloud has been placed on a cosmic roulette wheel and it only will arrive by luck … and assuming it doesn’t die out in the mountains or when it runs into the wall of atmospheric heat that surrounds the Valley in the summer time.
At the same time, compared to most places, the storms here are relatively benign … trees will be downed, microbursts will occur and wreak havoc, and every now and then we’ll get pelted with Biblical hail has happened two years ago (but hadn’t happened before or since.) Rarely is the governor declaring a state of emergency because of a monsoon thunderstorm.
For those new to the Valley, these things can be a heck of a shock to the system – on the way to dinner last night I saw countless newer neighbors standing outside gawking at the approaching beige clouds. But they’re a reasonable trade off to live in a place where you can wear shorts to Christmas dinner and your New Year’s Eve parties.