Tips for Staying Safe During a Haboob
Haboob: It’s an unusual term for a rare but potentially dangerous event — an intense dust storm.
Generally, haboobs occur in the deserts of North Africa or Arabia, and the term itself is Arabic for “strong wind,” but the U.S. is no stranger to this spectacular dust storm. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that in Arizona it has seen an average of three haboobs a year. Although, Arizona is specifically known to experience haboobs here in the U.S., dust storms still occur in other states like Kansas, Utah, New Mexico, California and Texas.
So, how do haboobs actually happen? Well, they’re a result of thunderstorms. Storms travel and accumulate wind and precipitation. And when they break and it begins to rain, pressure is suddenly released and winds fall down and out, creating a force that picks up and carries dust and debris, according to the NOAA. That’s why it’s wise to learn how to prepare yourself for such a rare storm if you’re going to be in an area where haboobs sometimes happen.
Here are some things to know if you’re ever caught in a haboob. If you’re in a car, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Pull Aside Stay Alive campaign suggests the following:
- Safely pull off the road while you still have visibility. Do not stop in a travel or emergency lane.
- Turn off car headlights and interior lights so that other travelers don’t assume you are on the road and try to follow you.
- Make sure all windows are rolled up and doors are tightly shut.
- Close air vents so dust doesn’t come into the vehicle.
- Stay in your vehicle with seatbelts fastened and wait for the storm to pass.
If you’re inside a home or building:
- Close all windows, curtains and blinds and shut all doors.
- Turn off the air conditioning or shut vents so that dust doesn’t come indoors.
- If the storm is severe, take shelter in a room without windows. It’s important to stay away from windows because the wind can pick up rocks, tree limbs or other items that may shatter windows and cause injury.
Many times, a dust storm will cause power lines to go down and in some cases could cause a power outage. Never touch downed power lines or try to move them. It’s safest to call your local police department, to handle dangerous situations. For your own safety, it’s also wise to keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your car and in your home. And make sure that you have plenty of bottled water on hand too.
Originally published on September 26, 2013.