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Dust storm in Phoenix makes driving — and breathing — risky

Flights are delayed, poles are toppled and thousands lose power. It was the third major dust storm to hit the city since July.

August 18, 2011|Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • A Phoenix resident walks along Indian School Road during the dust storm.
A Phoenix resident walks along Indian School Road during the dust storm. (Joshua Lott, Reuters )

PHOENIX — A giant wall of dust rolled through the Phoenix area Thursday for the third time since early July -- turning the sky brown, creating dangerous driving conditions and delaying some airline flights.

The dust storm, also known as a haboob in Arabic and around Arizona, swept through Pinal County and headed northeast, reaching Phoenix at about 6 p.m.

Some incoming and departing flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport were temporarily delayed because of the storm, according to airport officials who couldn't immediately provide exact numbers. Takeoffs and landings resumed at about 6:50 p.m.

National Weather Service meteorologists said a powerful thunderstorm packing winds of up to 60 mph hit Pinal County and pushed the dust storm toward Arizona's most populous county. There were several reports of downed poles, and Salt River Project officials said 3,500 of its customers were without electricity, mostly in the Queen Creek area southeast of Phoenix.

There were no immediate reports of any weather-related auto accidents.

It was the third major dust storm to hit the Phoenix metro area since last month. A haboob on July 5 brought a mile-high wall of dust that halted airline flights, knocked out power for 10,000 people and covered everything in its path with a thick sheet of dust. Another dust storm hit July 18, reaching heights of 3,000 to 4,000 feet, delaying flights and cutting off power for more than 2,000 people in the Phoenix metro area.

Weather officials say haboobs only happen in Arizona, the Sahara desert and parts of the Middle East because of dry conditions and large amounts of sand.

Pollution levels skyrocket during dust storms and create even more breathing problems for people with asthma and other similar conditions.

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