If you are new to the Phoenix area, you may have heard a few locals refer to a haboob while talking about the weather. A quick answer to the obvious question is that a haboob is a storm that will blot the sun from the sky and hurl sand and rocks at high speeds. It can be a dramatic and frightening experience.

What is a Haboob?

Those from Tempe and Scottsdale neighborhoods might call these events dust storms. However, back in the early 70s scientists determined that they act much like the storms found in Sudan, located in the Arabian Desert, which are called haboobs.

The event begins in Arizona as a thunderstorm well to the south of Chandler in the Santa Cruz Valley. When the thunderhead starts to break down, a downburst of cold air blasts out of the cloud picking up dirt and dust. The violence of the wind, thunderstorm, and gathering dust can build to a height up to 8,000 feet, blocking much of the sunlight while a wall of desert sand descends on Superstition Springs, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Avondale. Places like Prescott, due to its location further north, experience dust devils, but nothing close to a haboob.

Winds in this storm have been clocked at over 50 mph, capable of bringing down power lines, smashing windows, and blowing loose trash barrels, bicycles, and other significant unsecured items all over town. The dust stirs up in the towering thunderhead and can be deposited in drifts across streets, lawns, and/or blown through screens and vents. These storms typically last between 30 and 45 minutes and occur during the Monsoon Season, which hits mid-June and runs until the end of September. You may experience two to three haboobs in any given year.

How to Stay Safe During a Haboob or Dust Storm

Stay indoors and close all your doors and windows. Shut off your air conditioning system and seal any vents. Stay in a room with no windows for the duration of the storm.

If you are driving when a haboob descends, pull over as far as you can to a safe place off the roadway. Shut off the engine and take your foot off the brake pedal. Stay buckled up, and close the air vents. Then wait for the storm to pass.

What Kind of Damage Can the Haboob Do to My Car?

After the storm passes, you should check the windshield for dings or cracked glass. Look at the undercarriage and tires for debris that was trapped. Open the hood look for sand, and dirt packed in by the storm. Don’t be alarmed, or surprised by what the haboob may bring

Windshield damage after storm

When it is time to service the vehicle, remember to have your engine and cabin air filters changed out after the monsoon season to help maintain peak performance and provide dust-free air inside the cabin. Other parts and systems that can be damaged by the haboob include your brakes, as the dust can cause uneven wear or prevent the ability to stop safely.

If you have weathered a haboob recently, make an appointment as soon as possible with your local Valley Honda Dealer. Certified technicians will perform a thorough safety and performance inspection of your vehicle. The oil and its filter, plus the air filter can be changed to ensure there is no lasting negative impact from the summer storm.