First Massive Dust Storm Of The Season Takes Over Phoenix

A massive dust storm took over parts of Phoenix, Arizona. “Very large and historic” are the words the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Phoenix has used to describe this dust storm that brought widespread reports of near zero visibility and wind gusts greater than 50 mph.

The dust storm was estimated to reach a peak height of at least 5,000 to 6,000 (about a mile) with an aerial coverage on the leading edge stretching nearly 100 miles, according to the National Weather Service. The storm traveled at least 150 miles, much farther than the average 25 to 50 miles that dust storms typically travel.

The storm warning included the communities of Casa Grande, Coolidge, Florence, Gila Bend, Maricopa and Sacaton.The warning also covered the nearby portions of Interstates 8 and 10. The developing weather marked the first significant surge of activity of the Phoenix, Arizona summer thunderstorm season.

Power has been restored to most parts of the East Valley, and Sky Harbor travel is back to normal after experiencing delays as Friday’s massive dust storm rolled through Phoenix. Sky Harbor Airport officials stated incoming and outgoing flights have been delayed by anywhere between 15 and 40 minutes as the dust wall moves through the Phoenix area. One flight had to be diverted from Mesa-Gateway Airport to Sky Harbor as the thick cloud hit the East Valley. Airport officials said flight operations were back to normal by 2 p.m.

Because it has been so dry across the Southwest this spring and early summer, it didn’t take much wind to kick up a great deal of dust. While the rain has caused flash flooding problems in the short run, it is much-needed with large portion of the Southwest in a moderate to exceptional drought. More rain will be needed on a regular basis to help improve the drought situation and lessen the wildfire risk that has been plaguing the region.