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Arizona Weather Events

Haboobs & Monsoons: Weather Events Can’t Forget

Arizona offers travelers to the region with many fond memories, museums, fine dining, great shopping and superb golf. However, two events that can be slightly more daunting (and likely not forgotten) are two major weather events that local residents experience every year.


Haboobs are a term designated to massive dust storms that most of us believe take place in Middle Eastern countries. Not so quickly my friends. If you are visiting Arizona during the summer months, you are likely to encounter these two weather phenomenons. Haboobs are thunderstorms that can produce strong downdrafts, or down bursts, which are powerful winds that blast downward and outward from the thunderstorms. When this happens, dry, loose sand on the desert floor can get kicked up, which creates a wall of dust that travels outward, spanning a much larger area than the thunderstorm itself. We all remember the movie “Hidalgo” where they racers on horseback try to outrun the approaching Haboob. Trust me, there is no outrunning a Haboob in Arizona.

This weather event has a wall of dust averaging 1000 feet high that will travel some 25 – 50 miles. In July, 2011 Arizona experienced the mother of all Haboobs. It was an historic event that many called the 100-year dust storm. This massive Haboob had a wall of dust that rose skyward to a height of 5000 – 6000 feet above the ground, with a massive wall that extended 100 miles wide.

It originated in Tucson, and when it hit Phoenix, it was running at 50 miles an hour, with a visual that looked like the end of the world was approaching. No sun, zero visibility, just howling winds and the feeling would anyone survive. Lifetime residents in Arizona shared that they never had experienced such a force of nature.


The next major weather event we all experience are the Monsoons. In Arizona we have an annual Monsoon season that typically runs from July – September, where literally in minutes the weather can turn from overcast to what can seem to be the end of the world. During a monsoon, an overall shift in winds across the Southwest draws in tropical moisture, resulting in a significant increase in thunderstorm activity and rainfall.

Torrential downpours come out of nowhere, so fast and furious that if you’re driving you have to stop because of your inability to see anything. And with the rain comes winds and lightning that can also bring tornado force micro-bursts that take on roof-tops and down trees, telephone and power poles for up to a half mile. The trees and poles can look like they were all sawed off at the same level. It’s a sight very few ever forget.

This activity demonstrates the sheer power of Mother Nature. A monsoon can last for minutes or hours. The result is rapid flooding and significant damage. Arizona also created a “Stupid Motorist Law” for those numbskulls among us who try to drive through flooding areas, only to be rescued by local emergency teams.

Two Major Weather Events

Haboobs and Monsoons are events that are nor common to many other regions of the country which is why many people who have experienced both weather events, have told me how many others have shared their harrowing experiences while visiting with us.

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