Haboob Hits Northwest Iowa

May 13, 2022 11:42am


Haboob approaching Sioux Center

An intense dust storm hit northwest Iowa late Thursday, causing a temporary black out due to the amount of dust in the air. The word to describe this weather phenomenon was first used in the United States in 1972.


"It is pronounced huh-BOOB," says Allan Curtis of the National Weather Service office in Johnston. Fifty years ago, Arizona scientists began using the word to describe the dust storms that swept through the Phoenix area. The National Weather Service uses the term, but Curtis says most Iowans probably haven't heard it because haboobs are most common in dry, arid regions in the southwest U.S. and western plains.


Curtis says, "Areas where typically in large parts of the year they're very dry, but they can also get very strong storms that can produce extreme winds," Curtis says. "...It's quite rare to get it into what you would call the Corn Belt region just because we're generally not that dry and even when we are dry, we have corn in the ground, soybeans and whatnot and so there's less opportunity to kick up that much dust." In the 1930s, the "Dust Bowl" did extreme damage to parts of the Great Plains as clouds of dust swept through the countryside. Curtis says it's hard to tell with 100 percent certainty if those storms were haboobs, but it's likely many were.


He says, "Given all the stories that we know that have been told from the Dust Bowl and what we are able to glean from that, it was clearly an extremely dry decade, not a lot of things growing, so there was going to be ample opportunity for dry dirt, dust, other types of debris to be picked up and carried around." A combination of conditions in northwest Iowa yesterday -- a strong thunderstorm with high winds approaching dry, barren cropland -- produced the atmosphere for a haboob.


Reports from the National Weather Service indicate mostly wind damage in the area; trees were reported down in the Little Rock area, an 82 mph wind gust was recorded near Sibley, severe building damage SW of Rock Valley and in Canton, a wind gust of 87 mph was reported near Larchwood, and significant roof damage was reported near Primghar.


Content courtesy of Radio Iowa