Video Captures What It Feels Like to Drive Through a Massive Arizona Sandstorm

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Written by Sharon Parry

Published: November 4, 2023

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An image showing a severe sandstorm of high altitude with cumulonimbus rain clouds forming near towering mountains heading towards a sandy desert.
© ABDULLAHNALMAMARI/Shutterstock.com

This shocking clip shows us the reality of driving in Arizona during a sandstorm. The news report compiles several clips of summer monsoon dust storms experienced on local freeways. The journey between Phoenix and Tucson can be particularly hazardous with five dust-related crashes in recent years. Sadly, these have resulted in both injuries and fatalities. If you have never driven in a dust storm, this clip will at least give you an idea of what it feels like. One minute it’s all clear and then suddenly you can’t see a thing!

What Causes Arizona Dust Storms?

Arizona dust storms are also called ‘haboobs’. They can be miles long and thousands of feet high. The strong winds create a wall of dust and debris. Dust storms arise because dry air has accumulated between the base of a cloud and the ground surface. Because the deserts in Arizona are warm and dry this happens quite often. The stronger the wind, the more severe they are.

In the area around Tucson (which is desert terrain), the storms form early in the afternoon and then move towards Phoenix. Unfortunately, this happens at around five or six in the afternoon when there are large numbers of drivers on the freeways.

Dust storms are often accompanied by 60 to 70-mile-per-hour winds which can cause damage. The local authorities issue dust storm warnings when visibility is half a mile or less.

Tips for Driving in a Sandstorm

Monsoon dust storm (Haboob) moves across the Arizona desert.

Dust storms usually only last for minutes.

©John D Sirlin/Shutterstock.com

The clip gives us some clear tips for keeping safe when driving in a dust storm. The main thing you need to do is to keep an eye on traffic around you and if it is slowing down make sure that you slow down too! If you can find an exit to get off the highway this is the safest thing to do. However, do not stop in the middle of the carriageway because this puts you at risk of a collision.

Once you have pulled over, surprisingly, you should turn your lights off so that other drivers do not think that you are on the highway and try to follow you. Stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt buckled. Wait it out until the storm has passed and then continue on your journey. Most storms only last for a few minutes or up to an hour at the most!


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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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