Huge haboob dust storm sweeps through Arizona

Amazing photos and videos captured by people close to the event

A massive dust storm blew through the greater Phoenix, Ariz., area engulfing everything in a dark cloud late Saturday afternoon. This storm, known as a haboob, was estimated by the National Weather Service to be about 600 metres high.

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The haboob knocked out power to about 9,000 people and the city's airport was shut down for about 20 minutes. There are no reports of injury and some people captured some impressive photos and videos of the event.

The haboob was followed by some rain that helped rinse off some of the dust. The area's monsoon season has been underway for more than a month now, but these types of storms aren't that rare for this time of season. While this is the first major one to hit this area this season, a 160-km-wide haboob swept through Phoenix in early July 2011, knocking out power to nearly 10,000 people. It turned swimming pools into mud pits and caked cars with dirt.

The word haboob is Arabic for "strong wind." Arizona is not the only area of the world to experience haboobs. They are common across Sudan (where they were named and described) as well as the Arabian Peninsula, Kuwait and Iraq.

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According to an NPR article, a haboob is "a downburst in a desert region that picks up loose sand, driving it forward." Penn State University meteorologist Fred Gadomski told NPR, "The dust gets into everything ... It gets into electronics, it gets into every nook and cranny."

They are frequently created by the collapse of a thunderstorm.

Because it's called a haboob, here's a sampling of people having some fun on Twitter.