Dust Storms

Thunderstorms frequently produce strong downward rushes of air called microbursts that spread out along the ground and spread dense blowing dust called “haboobs.”

Haboobs (also called dust storms) are unexpected, unpredictable and can sweep across Arizona's desert landscape at any time. You can endure these brief but powerful windstorms if you know how to react. 

BE Prepared

Straight lines winds in a thunderstorm can lift huge clouds of dust and reduce visibilities to near zero in seconds, which can quickly result in deadly, multi-vehicle accidents on roadways. 

Dust storms are more common in the early part of the monsoon, near agricultural areas, and near Willcox Playa in Cochise County. Use caution in these areas any time thunderstorms are nearby. 

TAKE Action

  • Dust storms usually last a few minutes, and up to an hour at most. Stay where you are until the dust storm passes.
  • Avoid driving into or through a dust storm. If you encounter a dust storm:
    • Immediately check traffic around your vehicle (front, back and to the side) and begin slowing down.
    • Do not wait until poor visibility makes it difficult to safely pull off the roadway -- do it as soon as possible. Completely exit the highway if you can.
    • Do not stop in a travel lane or in the emergency lane. Look for a safe place to pull completely off the paved portion of the roadway.
    • PULL OFF! LIGHTS OFF! FOOT OFF!
  • If you encounter a dust storm while driving, pull off the road immediately.
    • Turn off your headlights and taillights, put your vehicle in "PARK," and take your foot off the brake (so your brake lights are not illuminated.) Other motorists may tend to follow taillights in an attempt to get through the dust storm, and may strike your vehicle from behind. 
    • Stay in the vehicle with your seatbelts buckled and wait for the storm to pass. 
  • Drivers of high-profile vehicles should be especially aware of changing weather conditions and travel at reduced speeds.

BE Informed

  • Know the emergency plans for your area.
  • Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a dust storm hazard.
    • Dust Storm Watch—Tells you when and where dust storms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
    • Dust Storm Warning—Issued when visibility is 1/2 mile or less due to blowing dust or sand, and wind speeds of 30 miles an hour or more.
  • Research additional information on dust storms, beginning with the following resources.

(source: ADOT, Ready.gov)