It must have felt like an opening scene from the latest movie by big screen movie director Roland Emmerich, however it was much more real than any special effects provided by the flashiest of Hollywood productions.
On Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning, a dust storm that can only be described as massive, crept slowly over a large portion of the Arizona landscape. With winds urging the movement between 30 and 60 miles per hour. The storm which was believed to have originated in Tucson, eventually spread itself out to a larger part of the Phoenix area, covering upwards of 50 miles of land across. By the time it had reached the city of Phoenix it had shrunk to an estimated height of 5,000 feet.
This may not seem like any size to scoff at, but before arriving to this city it was estimated by meteorologist, Paul Iniguez from the National Weather Service, to have hit a peak height of somewhere between 8,000 to 10,000 feet high. As an obvious example of extreme weather, this dust storm covered vast areas of cities limiting the visibility almost down to little to none. This proved a headache to many motorists as traffic woes multiplied and fears ran high.
Additionally, the storm had caused damage by pushing over trees as it moved along as well as sparking fires from active live wires. In parts of rural Tempe, Arizona, a fire broke out due to such conditions but were quickly, and fortunately, abated by local authorities.
One area that was not so lucky was Youngker High School in Buckeye, Arizona. The school was hit by the dust storm and afterwards it was apparent that the damage done here would not be quite as easy to fix. Large pieces of metal roofing sheets that sat atop a school building were torn up and away from the walls, leaving for a costly fix.
For the most part, clean up is the biggest problem with estimates of damage not known at the time.
We have seen events like this in the past. Perhaps one of the most memorable will have us recall the images that were taken from the events of the Dust Bowl of the earlier part of the last century. While these particular dust storms gained their notoriety because of the many farming families and individuals displaced at this time with their livelihood and homes destroyed, the more recent storm is proof that although many practices may be changed, nature is not so easy to keep under control.
Videos of the recent Arizona dust storms are flooding all over the internet, taken by residents and local bystanders to show a landscape completely taken over by the dark cloud. This particular video shows the nighttime skyline lost to a seemingly endless cloud of dust. The bright night lights of the city are slowly enveloped by a wall stretching from the tops of the skyscrapers to the bottom of the clouds.
While the damage of dust storms is not typical of other natural phenomena—like tornadoes, hurricanes, and the like—there is definite damage control and clean up that the Arizona area will have to take into consideration.
Dust storms, in general, can be seen as a sign that conditions of the land may be a distance away from the ideal. With the erosion and misuse of an area’s topsoil, poor irrigation and farming techniques, perhaps they come as a warning against future use and possible abuse.
Overall, dust storms remain a sight to be seen, just as long as all those in the path are able to find a nice comfortable place indoors before it gets too close.
Photo Credit: i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01939/phoenix-sand-3_1939086b.jpg