A thousand foot high wall of dust, known as a haboob, played havoc on air traffic and ground transportation in Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday evening August 18, 2011 for the third time in the past six weeks as reported on Friday, August 19, 2011 by the International Business Times, New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, KNXV-TV, the Los Angeles Times, and other news outlets.
Just as in the earlier incidents on July 5, and July 18, last evening’s weather phenomenon happened at sunset, and produced dramatic desert lighting, high winds, and reduced viability, hampering driving and delaying flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), which set a record high temperature of 112 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is also an attached slide show and video clip which accompany this article illustrating the storm.
According to the travel web site FlightStats, a cluster of about 75 departures and arrivals operated by Southwest Airlines (WN), US Airways (US), American Airlines (AA), Great Lakes Aviation (ZK), SkyWest Airlines (OO) and Mesa Airlines (YV) were delayed or canceled between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. MST, with some flights being as much as 5 hours behind schedule.
Particularly impacted were arriving planes flown by Continental Airlines (CO), Alaska Airlines (AS), Ameriflight (A8), and other carriers which diverted to an array of alternate flight centers, including Nogales International Airport (OLS), El Paso International Airport (ELP), Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) and others, because of fuel and safety concerns.
A layer of fine dust particles covered roadways, cars, and the clothing, skin and hair of pedestrians. Drivers were especially at risk, and many decided to wait the storm out in parking lots, shopping centers, and wherever it was safe to pull off the highways.
According to Ken Waters of the National Weather Service, Phoenix and the surrounding Maricopa County region is experiencing about the same number of dust storms this year, but the three recent ones in the last six weeks have been larger, more dramatic and powerful.
As the meteorologist puts it, “Each year, you are going to get some variety of the dust storms. We don’t see a single causative factor for why they seem to be stronger this year.”
For travelers and others trying to keep to a schedule, they are a reminder of powerful natural forces that can impact daily lives and disrupt plans.
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