Hey! Don’t make fun of my haboobs!

ha·boob – (he-bōōb’) n. A penetrating sandstorm or dust storm with violent winds, occurring chiefly in Arabia, North Africa, and India.

Last May I was in Charleston, NC at a meeting. On the local morning news they were talking about how a “haboob” had worked its way across the Phoenix area. Having lived in Phoenix for over five years I wondered what the heck they were talking about. I looked up from applying my eyeliner and saw a photo similar to what you see above. “Oh,” I thought, “it’s just a dust storm.”

Every late spring/early summer, maybe every 8-10 days or so, we get these dust storms. In fact, we’re overdue right now. The storms always seem to hit during the evening commute, between about 4pm and 6pm, though of course not always on a weekday – that would just be eerie. They disrupt traffic, coat our cars with a veil of desert dirt, deposit leaves and branches into our swimming pools and blow empty trash barrels around in the streets. As the first big snowstorm was always the big local news story in New York, the first dust storm of the year is always big local news here.

If you’re lucky you might get to see an actual tumbleweed blow by in front of you on the freeway – yes, just like in Roadrunner cartoons and John Wayne movies. If you’re really lucky, the storm might even bring a drop or two of rain – usually BIG drops, though few and far between.

If we’re at home, we usually have to run out to the back yard and rescue the patio chairs from certain doom: Blowing into our swimming pool. Blinking back the dirt from our eyes and attempting to ignore the grittiness in our teeth, we rush to make sure anything that isn’t nailed down is either brought inside or tethered. Potted plants overturn, hummingbird feeders whip in the wind and I’ve even seen the patio umbrellas take off from neighbors’ back yards like kites. If we’re not at home when one blows through, we can only cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Yes, it’s all very cool to watch, and you’d better like it because there ain’t nothin’ on TV while this storm is happening – the satellite isn’t likely to be getting much of a signal what with all the hubbub going on outdoors. But the good news is, it’s all likely to be over in 30-45 minutes and we can go out back to retrieve our forgotten pool towels from the bottom of the hot tub.

Getting back to my recollection of that Charleston morning news broadcast last year, I watched as the newscasters made fun of Phoenicians and our “haboobs”. Their taunting made us out to look like wierdos who enjoy some sort of strange vocabulary – though I was more than slightly insulted since I had obviously never heard anyone refer to a “dust storm” in such a manner. Karma came only moments later, in the next story when the plasticized, big-haired news “reporter” was interviewing an alligator expert about a recent increase in Florida alligator attacks.

BIG HAIR: “So, Mr. Davis, tell me. If an alligator comes at you, what should you do?”

ALLIGATOR EXPERT: (pausing to look at her in disbelief) “Well, you RUN.”

Well, duh!

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2 Responses to “Hey! Don’t make fun of my haboobs!”


  1. 1 Deb June 26, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    You are so funny! I love reading this!!
    For the record, we’re still on track for dust storms.. they don’t normally start until mid July. Monsoon season begins after three consecutive days of the dew point being above 55.


  1. 1 Phoenix is on fire! « desert drivel Trackback on June 28, 2008 at 2:43 pm

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