A huge dust storm about 100 miles wide and over 10,000 feet high, which turned daylight into near zero visibility, combined with winds as high as 69 miles an hours caused the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to impose a ground hold of one and a quarter hours at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) from about 7:30 p.m. MST on Tuesday, July 5, 2011, according to reports by the Phoenix Business Journal, KFOX-TV, KTVU-TV, the International Business Times, CNN, KDVR-TV, Science News, and other information sources published on Wednesday, July 6, 2011.
According to FlightStats, both departing and arriving flights were impacted, with delays reported on most flights of from one to three hours. Over 200 flights were delayed, and at least 3 flights were cancelled.
The carriers most affected included Southwest Airlines (WN), US Airways (US), Mesa Airlines (YV), Capital Cargo International Airlines (PT), UPS Airlines (5X), FedEx Express (FX), and Delta Air Lines (DL).
The extreme weather conditions were caused by cold air down drafts from collapsing thunderstorms to the south in Tucson, AZ which churned up clouds of dust, and that were then carried in thermal updrafts northward towards Phoenix, as seen in the attached video clip and slide show which accompany this report.
Also known as a haboob, an Arabic word for sand storm, the wall of dust particles can stretch for well over 30 miles, and are produced every year in the southwestern U.S. during the North American monsoon (NAM) season. They typically occurs over desert areas and can extend as much as two miles into the atmosphere, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
In addition to poor visibility that can cause road accidents, and ground or delay aircraft, haboobs can also uproot trees, damage homes, and bring down power lines.
Other parts of Arizona also experienced thunderstorms throughout the night on Tuesday. More than 10,000 customers lost power at the height of the storm, according to Jenna Shaver, a spokesperson for the Arizona Public Service Company.
Temperatures in Phoenix hit a high of 118 degrees Fahrenheit at Sky Harbor International Airport, breaking a 10-year-old record of 116 degrees recorded on July 2, 2001.
Phoenix has extremely hot summers and warm winters. The average summer high temperatures are some of the hottest of any major city in the United States, and approach those of cities such as Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Baghdad, Iraq.
Air conditioned buildings make it possible to live with the heat. Temperatures in Arizona reach or exceed 100 degrees on an average of 110 days during the year, including most days from late May through early September, with an all-time recorded high of 122 degrees recorded on June 26, 1990.
Tell us your thoughts. Please leave comments below or by email and subscribe to get future updates. There is also expanded coverage of other recent news articles. You may also wish to follow our dispatches as the News Analysis Examiner.