If you've watched the movie Hidalgo, you've seen a Haboob. There's a scene where they have to outrun a huge dust storm. I mean HUGE. You may have been thinking, "Wow, great special effects - that can't be real."
While the special effects were spectacular, I can guarantee you, storms like that are real. I saw it happen last week.
This is what it looked like:
This storm was over 60 miles wide, and reached a height of 3,000 feet. It engulfed the entire Phoenix metropolitan area, otherwise known as The Valley of the Sun. My oldest son and I were out running errands at the time it hit, and as it approached us, the cloud looked like something out of a sci-fi movie, a huge black monster eating everything in its path.
While haboobs are not uncommon for this part of the world, they aren't frequent, and as many Valley dwellers have remarked, never this huge. Most people I've spoken to said that they've never seen a dust storm of this magnitude before. The other strange thing about this one was the behavior of the storm.
Usually when you see an enormous wall of dust move across the desert, it is accompanied by fierce, gusty winds that make you feel as if you will blow over. First the wind, then the dust, blowing hard. Then there will be a strong downpour, dumping several inches of rain in a rather short period of time. And the before you know it the clouds are gone, the desert has been scrubbed clean, and everything has this wonderful damp woodsy-deserty smell.
And there will be a puddle in front of our house about the size of Lake Michigan. This is all normal behavior for Arizona monsoons.
But this storm had the creepy, eerie factor of just...hanging there. The wind stopped, and with minimal rain, the dust didn't have anywhere to go. It was like fog, only dry and gritty, and for days afterward, everything was coated in a fine powder.
The haboob reminded me of a movie I once saw about the dust bowl days, and in the film, this woman literally goes crazy because everything in her house is covered in dust; she opens the cupboard to get the dishes, and dust just pours out; there's dust piled up in the corners of the room, drifts of it.
And while our house didn't look quite that bad, it sure wasn't pretty. Especially when you throw in dog hair dust bunnies big enough to build a new dog...Am I the only one who hates doing housework? I didn't think so.
And sometimes during weather like this I look out at my poor little British equines.
Gypsy horses certainly weren't made for the dry, dusty, dirty desert. One of these days when I win the lottery :) I'll have a summer place with lush green pastures for them to frolic and skip in, with daisies in their hair. Until then, they'll just have to suffer through it like the rest of us.
I mean, a few months of unbearable heat is better than snow, windchill and below freezing temperatures, right?