Driving in an Arizona Storm

A large dust storm swept over the Valley on Thursday evening followed by a heavy rainstorm. This type of weather is typical for Arizona, especially during late summer months. Driving a car during a dust storm or haboob is dangerous. Objects and plants fly across the road at high speeds, trees can topple over, and visibility is incredibly low. These storms may not last a long time, but many things can go awry in a short time. Heavy rain will often follow a dust storm, turning the dusty remnants into mud and further decreasing a driver’s visibility.  

What to do if you are driving when a dust storm hits:

·      First of all, do not attempt to drive in a dust storm if you are already safely indoors.

·      If you happen to be in a car, then turn on your headlights and search for an exit.

·      If driving on a highway or freeway, exit the roadway as soon as possible and park in a parking lot until the storm passes.

What is the difference between a haboob and a dust/sand storm?

A haboob is a large wall of dust that hails from the desert. It is a centralized storm that can lift dust up to 5,000 feet in the air. The storm is accompanied by thunderstorms and lightning. The first haboob to hit Arizona was recorded in 1972, but many meteorologists assume that haboobs have swept across the landscape decades before that.

A dust storm spans across a large area and is much lower to the ground. Dust storms often occur after a long period of drought, which makes the dust easier for the wind to catch. That classic Western image of a tumbleweed blowing in the wind? It was probably captured during a dust storm. Dead, skeletal desert plants—or tumbleweeds—make their way across Arizona roads during every dust storm or windy day.

It certainly appears as though the Arizona weather has no regard for seasons. Any local or visitor would notice this after stepping outside. Temperatures fluctuate from chilly nights to hot afternoons regardless of the season. This is a perfect breeding ground for abnormal weather patterns. It is best to use caution when driving on roadways during any type of desert storm.