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For those that don’t know, “haboob” is another word for dust storm…it somehow sounds more exotic than "dust storm"....besides, it probably made you look!

Anyway, I was caught in an haboob last Friday after work. I had decided to get in a short hike after work. Yes, I’m talking about hiking – it is a good cross training routine for mountain biking, keeping both my legs and ankles (just had ankle surgery) in shape. What’s more, it is easier to fit in a hiking work-out after work, than a mountain biking work-out.

Anyway, here’s a little story of what it was like to be caught in a wall of dust:

Driving to the trailhead, I scan the skies for storm clouds. Clouds are all lined up in a circle around the Phoenix valley. I think about turning around and heading for home. I scold myself “these clouds probably won’t even push past the heat island.” I decide to venture out into the desert, but vow to keep a close eye on the clouds.

I reach the summit of the mountain, the clouds are closer, and it is apparent that a storm will hit the southern valley sometime that evening. A wall of dust precedes the dark thunderheads. It obscures all that it touches, and soon enough the rural areas south of the city are wiped out from view.

I realize that I have miscalculated, and the storm will hit me before I can reach the trailhead.

I begin to hurry.

As I loose elevation, nearby hills block some of the view of the approaching storm, but I can tell that it is bearing down upon my position. The sun’s position drops behind the mountain to my back, and clouds further dampen its light. An eerie pseudo-twilight glow falls upon the desert.

I see a mountain biker. He and I seem to be the only creatures in the desert tonight. All of the coyotes and rabbits and birds are smart enough to be tucked away in their homes. I wonder about snakes that normally begin their hunt in the twilight hours. I hope they plan to stay home tonight, too.

The mountain biker looks over his shoulder at the approaching wall of dust, and nods his head. No words are exchanged, but the worried looks on both of our faces say enough. The rider seems to be going in slow motion, though I know this is an easy trail, and he looks well prepared. It must be a trick of the light and the impending doom.

The scene becomes a bit surreal.

The rays of the setting sun begin to reflect off of the dust cloud in front of me. The whole sky lights up in the brightest orange imaginable. I think that this could be a postcard shot, the kind where the saguaros are back dropped by a flaming sky. And then I realize that the saguaros aren’t in profile, like the post cards…the saguaros are illuminated with a strangely yellow glow.

I’m mesmerized by the fire in the sky. The wall of dust makes the entire sky a single shade of bright orange. It doesn’t look right at all. Not like the setting sun, where pinks and purples mix with peaches and orange. No, this is a ground-to-sky wall of flaming orange. It haunts my senses, and I try to convince myself to hurry.

The wall’s luminescence fades as the sun sets, and it is apparent that the haboob will strike soon.

Moments later, as the dust cloud boils into view, I notice that the tops of the hills disappear. Then half of the hills are gone. Then the whole hill is gone. I brace for the impact, as the dust cloud obliterates the desert around me.

Then it is just me, and the desert. The sound of the wind is so deafening, and its strength so forceful, I just want to hunker down in a wash and hide. Deep down, I know this is unwise, as lightening and torrential rain are likely to follow the raging dust.

Visibility is reduced to a few feet and I cannot even see the ground in front of me. My ears begin to fill with sand, and my balance is thrown off. The sand crusts around my eyes, and it is everything I can do to keep them open a sliver, to see my way out. The pelting sand hits my body with an impact that hurts. And I know my teeth are now black from a coating of dust. But I move on.

It seems that I am in another world. Familiar landmarks are unrecognizable. The desert is blanketed in a fog of dust. And it feels as though I’m the sole wanderer in a barren land.

There’s a buzzing noise coming from the wash on my right. Is that an electrical charge from the impending lightening? Or just cicadas? I can’t tell. My mind is muddled, and all I want is a break from the pounding dust.

I have difficulty finding the break in the fence that serves as the trailhead. My eyes are so swollen with dust. But somehow I do find the break in the fence, and as I make that last step from dirt to pavement, I realize that the desert is just going through one of its normal phases, and I am the only creature truly bothered by this progression of dust….I realize this as I hear a familiar desert sound: the rattle of a snake.

I can’t see the snake, as my vision is so poor at this point, but I apologize for being ill-equipped enough to have seen him and for disturbing his hunt. I then mosey along, and finally reach the shelter of my car….
 

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internet axe murderer
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Holy chit!

That sounds really freaky. It must have been really wild to experience that. Thank goodness it all turned out OK for you.

Spike
 

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i think haboob is Arabic for dust storm. i have been caught outside during a haboob but never out in the desert itself. we routinely have dust devils and those can be nasty as well. glad you made it out alright, and glad you and the rattler did not have too close an encounter. :D

Rita
 

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excellent story, gnarlene. well written. i was right there with you.
 

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grasso e lento
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Thanks and glad you are OK

That was a cool story.. Glad to hear you are OK and you didn't bit by that snake.... :eek:


-Dude
 
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