Dear Tom,

I just read a news story about a haboob that occurred in the Plains. What is a haboob?

Thanks, Phil Bigelow

Dear Phil,

A haboob is an intense dust storm. The name comes from the Arabic word “habb” which means wind. Haboobs frequently occur in portions of the Sudan, averaging nearly two dozen a year. They can occur anywhere in the U.S. but are most common in the Desert Southwest. They often develop as a result of strong outflow-thunderstorm winds that send sand or dirt airborne, drastically reducing the visibility. The recent haboob formed as severe thunderstorms swept across the Dakotas and Nebraska into Minnesota and Iowa, packing wind gusts of more than 75 mph, with a gust to 107 mph recorded in eastern South Dakota. An ample supply of dust and dirt was available to trigger the haboob, a result of dry and recently plowed topsoil.