CAUGHT ON VIDEO: THE MOMENT A DRIVER IS SWALLOWED BY A MENACING BLACK CLOUD AS A HUGE DUST STORM FROM THE DESERT ENGULFS PHOENIX
Menacing: A huge dust storm brews on the horizon as a driver cruises through Phoenix, Arizona Tuesday evening. It formed in an afternoon storm in the Tucson area, then rolled north across the desert
A brave driver seems to head straight into midnight from the afternoon along a short stretch of road in Phoenix, thanks to the massive dust storm that hit the Arizona city Tuesday evening.
In the video posted on YouTube, the driver goes from typical city streets to a hellish scene of pitch black over just a few moments.
Driving straight for the heart of the dusty beast, the sky turns from ashen to completely black, and passing cars can only be glimpsed at the last moment, when their headlights are able to pierce the black a few feet.
Closer: The driver gets closer to the storm, which is also known by its Arabic name of haboob. Winds in such a storm can reach 30 mph
Trouble zones: Haboobs can develop in virtually any large dry area of the globe, including much of the Middle East, Africa, the American Southwest and Australia
Lucky: Fortunately, authorities have not reported any fatalities from Tuesday's storm, though many lost power or endured a mess
Irritant: Dust storms can cause trouble for people with respiratory problems or allergies. Those who are caught in one should seek shelter or use a breathing apparatus
The massive dust storm descended quickly on the Phoenix area, drastically reducing visibility and delaying flights as strong winds downed trees and left thousands of residents without power.
The dust cloud that moved across the Phoenix valley last night had formed in an afternoon storm in the Tucson area, and then rolled north across the desert before sweeping over the city like an enormous wave, said National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Iniguez.
Radar data showed the storm's towering dust wall had reached as high as 8,000 to 10,000ft, or nearly two miles, he said.
These kinds of storms are also called haboobs, from an Arabic word, and they can occur in virtually any dry area, from much of the Middle East to the American Southwest.
In the U.S., the storms are most common in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. They occurred in a wider swath of the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s as well.
Dark day: As the driver passes into the dust storm, the daylight starts to get filtered out, and visibility drops sharply
Twilight: Passing deeper into the dust cloud, everything turns to darkness. It's not a safe time to drive
Pitch black: In the darkness of the dust, it's impossible to see another car passing until the last moment
Satellite's eye view: A NASA satellite image of the mile-high, 100-mile-wide dust storm that blew through Phoenix
The winds in haboobs are often 20 to 30 miles per hour. That's not enough to cause extensive damage, but the storms do often take down limbs or dead trees.
That certainly was the case in Arizona this week, as many residents lost power or had lawn chairs and other light items blown around.
After the storm moved through, dust settled over everything, making clean-up a big headache.
No word on what this brave driver's car must have looked like after his voyage through the darkness.
Apocalyptic: The giant dust storm engulfs Phoenix, Arizona, and appears to be causing fires and destruction in its path. But it is merely the reflection of street lights - the storm is little more than an inconvenience
Dwarfed by nature: The high-rise buildings of the city are humbled by the massive dust storm, which is a regular feature of Arizona's monsoon season from now until the end of September. Even so, this is a larger-than-normal storm
Awesome sight: The storm, also known as a habub, brings choking dust and strong winds along with it. Tuesday's storm grounded flights in and out of the area, brought down trees and cut power to thousands of residents and businesses
'This was pretty significant. We heard from a lot of people who lived here for a number of storms and this was the worst they'd seen,' Iniguez explained.
By the time the dust cloud neared the metropolitan area, it had started to dissolve but it still towered over the city with a wall of at least 5,000ft, according to the weather service.
KSAZ-TV in Phoenix reported the storm appeared to be exceptionally wide in some spots. It briefly covered the city's downtown at around nightfall.
The storm was part of the Arizona monsoon season, which typically starts in mid-June and lasts through September.
Low visibility: Despite it being early evening in Phoenix, the thick blanket of dust darkens the landscape and forces drivers to be extra cautious
Not letting the storm get in the way: Customers at a local Starbucks cafe continue as if nothing is out of the ordinary (although they have the good sense to keep their drinks covered)
The National Weather Service says strong winds with gusts of up to more than 60 mph in some places rapidly moved the dust cloud northwest through Phoenix and the surrounding cities of Avondale, Tempe and Scottsdale.
More than a dozen communities in the area also were placed under a severe thunderstorm watch until 11pm.
Covered: A car outside Sky Harbor International Airport is buried under a thick layer of dust
'Where we are, it looks like Mount Saint Helens,' Jeff Lane, a spokesman with the Salt River Project utility, said.
'It looks like we had an eruption with all the dust that's all over the parking lot,' he added.
The storm downed trees, tossed yard furniture, and snuffed out visibility across an area of some 50 miles at its peak on Tuesday evening, although there were no reports of any fatalities.
The National Weather Service office in Phoenix called the dust storm 'very large and historic', in a statement posted on its website, describing the blow as an 'impressive event'.
A new day: Workers at a car dealership start scrubbing the dust off of their vehicles, which were covered after the storm
Residents rushed inside as sand from the storm blasted the area in winds of up to 50 miles per hour, NWS reported. Near zero visibility forced drivers to stop on area roads until the worst of the storm passed.
Flights at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport returned to normal on Wednesday after the storm caused interruptions on Tuesday evening with a few flights cancelled, some diverted to other airports and a dozen delayed, said airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez.
A barrage of dust set off fire alarms in the terminal, but crews quickly cleared the mess from the storm.