When someone comes into the building and announces they’ve spotted a haboob, I immediately start checking to see who has their shirt unbuttoned. Of course that might actually be
called an aha boob, I guess.
I’ll admit that term haboob was confusing at first but I’m starting to recognize it and appreciate the exacting weather characteristics it denotes.
The definitions I’ve found say it is a wind storm featuring a wall of dust that usually towers very high into the atmosphere. Most of the time it occurs because fine dust has been stirred up by sudden downburst winds with prevailing winds from a front carrying the dirt cloud forward.
As the dust is pulled into the atmosphere the wall appears to be rolling toward you quite unnaturally. Churning along, getting closer, appearing to grow taller until its darkness and howling winds envelope you.
It has an awe-inspiring, doomsday look to it when you get a good haboob bearing down on your location. To someone who didn’t grow up on the parched plains, I suppose it looks too frightening to simply call it a sandstorm.
That’s what we called it around here when I was growing up. We had some good sandstorms, primarily because farmers broke out so much land in the days before the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) became popular on marginal lands.
I remember going to bed at night during storms like we’ve had recently and waking up the next morning with a layer of fine dust on the quilt I was sleeping under.
Inside on the window sills all you had to do was water the sand piled up there just a little to grow your very own sunflower patch in the window.
Those nighttime sandstorms were always creepy and gloomy, but I also remember how fresh and bright and crisp things often seemed the next day when the wind had died down. It still feels that way these days.
I know we just appreciate a clear calm day that much more after a bad blow or if the sand particles and static electricity actually work some restorative action on our environment.
I know we have it pretty good these days compared to what this country went through during the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Back then the name for a haboob was a duster, a really bad one was referred to as a black duster.
Some are outraged by the use of the Arabic word haboob, others are just confused about what it is or where the word came from. But whether you call them haboob, sandstorm or duster, it’s pretty likely we haven’t seen the last of them this spring.
With rangeland parched and in many cases burned over he last few years our sandy soil is just laying there on our area rangeland. With lighter winds it may drift into some really cool dunes and drifts. But with a more violent and sudden wind the stuff is going to get up into the air and start to roll.
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org