Locals know there are lots of little quirks about living in the desert—poisonous scorpions, jumping cholla, Sheriff Joe. But the occurrence of two of sports’ most entertaining events this past week had me thinking about perhaps my very favorite desert oddity: the freakish dust storm known as the “haboob.” Here’s why.
A haboob starts with strong winds that move in quickly from different directions to create a giant thunderstorm in the heart of another pesky summer. It’s not unlike fans of two vastly different sports who sweep into the valley to experience golf’s biggest party and football’s best game in the heart of another perfect winter.
When the cool winds of the haboob’s thunderstorm combine with the desert’s hot summer air, the storm collapses and starts to release precipitation. Much like a Phoenix Open golfer whose poor tee shot on the 16th is met with loud boos from the gallery until he collapses and starts to cry. Or like a certain football team, whose last cool victory is blasted with media hot air until the team “deflates” and starts to cry.
When this downdraft of cold air reaches the ground, it stirs up a massive wall of sediment more than 60 miles wide and moving as fast as 60 miles per hour. This is coincidentally exactly how far (and precisely how not fast) your commute to either sports venue felt like this weekend, no matter how close your VRBO description may have claimed.
I should mention that a haboob’s precipitation is rarely felt on the ground, since it usually evaporates in the hot, dry air beforehand. Because if there was ever a reason why all of us—locals and visitors alike—love the valley for golf, football and everything else right now, a similar lack of precipitation is it. Sure, we saw a bit of rain at the end of the week, but I promise you’ll never read a headline that has “Arizona” and “historic, crippling snowstorms” in the same sentence.
For people new to a haboob, it’s advisable to seek temporary shelter, especially during a strong event. Likewise, for people new to the Valley, it’s understandable to want to seek permanent shelter, especially after a spectacular week at the Phoenix Open and the Super Bowl. Just remember, sports fans—there are 51 other weeks of the year, and I cannot promise that following our beloved Coyotes, Diamondbacks, Suns and Cardinals won’t have you throwing lawn chairs into your backyard pool soon enough. But I can promise you that in the 11 years since the dust settled on my move to the Valley of the Sun, I can finally admit…I love this weird state we call Arizona. Yes, even in the summer when it’s 110° in the shade…and a huge haboob starts blowing in—like massive crowds flocking to golf’s craziest party, or to football’s biggest game.