3 Effects of Dust Storms in Nevada and Arizona
As intimidating meteorological hazards, dust storms are prevalent in arid and semi-arid regions, like Nevada and Arizona. Dust storms, also familiarly known as haboobs to Arizonans and Nevadans, directly impact climate, human health, the environment and socio-economic sectors in various ways.
What are dust storms?
To understand dust storms, it is first important to understand thunderstorms. The latter occurs as a result of strong pressure gradients linked with cyclones. Thunderstorms intensify an area’s wind speed. The winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from the soil and transport them miles away.
Special types of desert dust storms are called haboobs. The term is derived from the Arabic word “habb,” which means “wind.” Haboobs are immense walls of dust that can tower a mile high and roll over valleys at 50 miles per hour.
The terms haboob and dust storm are loosely interchangeable. However, not every dust storm is a haboob. Dust storms whirl closer to the ground as a result of wind picking up desert dust. Created by thunderstorm cells, haboobs lift dust higher into the air and are more severe.
Dust storms are well-recognized by residents living in Arizona and Nevada. Residents of these regions have come to expect dust storms every year, with the season beginning in mid-June and ending around the last days of September. Every summer, Phoenix averages three haboobs.
To illustrate the magnitude of dust storms in the American Southwest, it helps to bring to mind one of the most significant dust storms ever recorded in Phoenix history. In July 2011, dust from a haboob reach 5,000 to 6,000 miles high and gusted at 50 miles per hour.
Naturally, enormous blockades of dust impact the surrounding environment and the people who live there. While fascinating to witness, haboobs can be dangerous. Residents of and visitors to Nevada and Arizona are advised to take safety precautions when a dust storm hits.
Check out the effects of dust storms in Nevada and Arizona here.
1. Lack of Visibility for Drivers
The most critical effect of dust storms in these regions is the lack of visibility for drivers on the road. Drivers and motorcyclists careening down a highway on a sunny afternoon can unexpectedly encounter a massive dust storm and be suddenly faced with dangerous driving conditions.
As visibility drops to near zero at the height of a dust storm, vehicle accidents multiply. Drivers who attempt to plow through patches of low-visibility end up in car crashes. Officials advise drivers to pull over, turn off the lights, keep the seat belt strapped on and park the vehicle.
Drivers caught in a dust storm should keep the vehicle windows rolled up. Breathing, feeling and tasting desert dust can be unbearable. Prevent drawing in dust-filled air by switching the car’s controls to in-cabin circulation. Nevadans and Arizonans should change their cabin filters regularly.
Arizona State Troopers have further words of caution: Rather than take action during poor visibility, exit the highway immediately and completely as soon as a dust storm strikes. Never stop in the emergency lane. Set the emergency brake, and wait for the storm to pass.
Poor visibility conditions impact aircraft just as significantly as cars. Landings and takeoffs become dangerous when dust storms appear. Departures may be delayed, and landings may be diverted. Dust can destroy plane engines and scour airplane surfaces. Runways become covered in dust.
2. Health Effects of Dust Storms
The health of Arizonans and Nevadans are somewhat compromised when they breathe in desert dust. Dust particles in Phoenix are extremely fine, making it nearly impossible to avoid breathing in the dust even with the utmost care. Asthma attacks and respiratory problems are common consequences.
Valley fever is another health complication that residents can potentially experience from exposure to dust storms. A fungal infection in the lungs resulting from inhaling tiny fungal spores found in the desert soil, valley fever produces flu-like symptoms, such as fever, coughing, rash, and chest pain.
Acute, or mild, valley fever may disappear on its own and without treatment. But when the infection spreads to the rest of the body, such as the skin, heart and central nervous system, medical treatment is necessary. Chronic valley fever can develop months or years after an acute infection.
Lung abscesses can form when chronic valley fever is contracted. Wheezing, muscle aches, chronic cough and weight loss are typical symptoms of chronic valley fever. X-rays are done to check for damage to lungs. However, the majority of people will not develop chronic infections.
Is remaining indoors safe during a dust storm?
While driving and being outdoors during a dust storm are unadvisable, remaining indoors has its own hazards. People who are inside during a dust storm should shut the doors, windows and curtains. Avoid rooms with windows, as high winds can cause tree limbs or rocks to serve as projectiles.
3. Environmental Effects
Massive loads of dust that are produced by dust storms can fill irrigation canals, rivers and streams, thereby reducing the water quality. Solar power plants that rely on direct solar radiation are adversely affected when dust particles block solar panels and render them ineffective.
Storm and Water Damage Restoration
Residents of Arizona and Nevada are in a unique position when it comes to storm conditions. Protecting one’s health and safety is a primary concern, but so is restoring a property when it is affected by storm damage. ServiceMaster EMT is available for all water damage restoration emergencies.
Whether the water damage to your home or business started as a result of a natural disaster, like a storm, or a manmade one, like burst pipes, ServiceMaster EMT technicians will arrive promptly after your call. Our experienced crews assess the damage and prepare an effective restoration plan.
ServiceMaster EMT specialists extract the excess water, dry belongings, dehumidify the area, restore electronics and remove mold. If you reside in Nevada or Arizona, consult ServiceMaster EMT, the most reputable local water damage restoration experts, for restoration services 24 hours a day.