The massive dust storm that engulfed the city of Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this week brought reports of near zero visibility and winds gusting over 50 MPH, said the National Weather Service office in Tempe. According to KOLD News 13 in Tucson, a storm over their city started it all.

“A severe storm that moved across Tucson Tuesday afternoon produced wind gusts estimate at 70 MPH. These winds moved to the northwest at around 30 to 40 MPH, picking up dust and dirt from the desert and farm fields of Pinal County. The combination of abandoned or retired farmland in Pinal County, along with on-going drought, meant the land was very dry and lacked vegetation that would keep the soil in place. The dust storm turned into a ‘haboob’ – the informal name for a massive dust storm.”

Photos posted by the Bondurant School in Phoenix show the task ahead as some rain which also fell turned the dust into mud on around 200 cars in their complex. With almost 1.5 million residents in Phoenix, the Bondurant folks won’t be alone in their cleanup efforts.

Drought conditions have persisted in the area, with less than 50 per cent of normal rainfall having been seen since the summer months of last year. Traffic in the city slowed to a crawl with the arrival of the storm front and traffic at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport was shut down for 45 minutes.

Photos: NWS

According to the NWS, a dust storm usually arrives suddenly in the form of an advancing wall of dust and debris which may be miles long and can be several thousand feet high. Check the time lapse video of the storm cloud approaching at the bottom.