The haboobs are really having a good year in Arizona.
Yesterday evening, a strong thunderstorm kicked up a sky-high wall of dust that gusted through Phoenix, delaying flights and killing the power to thousands of homes. By this time the word haboob – Arabic for "violent storm" – must be acquiring the status of a curse word for Arizonans. "Oh, haboob," I imagine these drivers said, as they journeyed once again into a gloomy cloud of dirt:
Perhaps it's time to change the nomenclature for these dust storms. After all, the snicker-worthy "haboob" doesn't do much justice to these arresting weather majesties. I like one of the options mentioned by the Phoenix New Times: "mpothsh mshidevk vidiik," an Indian phrase meaning "the scary dust is coming." It has all the menacing, slithery sibilance, much like Cthulhu, that an incoming dust storm should imply. (The New Times also has a gallery with unusual pictures from a July haboob... take a peek.)
These dry, gritty fronts are regular features of the Southwest monsoon season. Abnormally hot temperatures are feeding their growth this year. In Phoenix, the average high temperature was 106.9 degrees last month, making it the fifteenth hottest July on record for the city. That sounds blazingly hot, until you find out the average high is just as unbearable at 106.6 degrees.
For hot, try this out: The temperature in Phoenix on July was 118 degrees, a record high. That's also the temperature raw-food enthusiasts believe that cooked vegetables begin to lose their nutrients. If anybody in Arizona recalls feeling particularly drained that day, then perhaps it's because all your vitamins were leaking out of your skin. (Miss Storm Watch 7's earlier gallery of historic dust storms? Here ya go.)