Summertime Side Note: Dust Storms, Bugs Abound

VIDEO: Severe heat creates dust storms and insect outbreaks in the Southwest.

Image credit: Mark Evans/AP Photo

From bugs to haboobs, this summer's weather is serving up more annoyances than just the heat and soaking rains.

In Gilbert, Ariz., residents were forced to seek shelter Monday inside the lobby of Mission Community Church as powerful winds from a "haboob," or dust storm, quickly moved in.

Within minutes, the bright sky had turned red, and the vehicles in the church's parking lot all seemed to vanish. Spencer Brannan, who videotaped the phenomenon, said the dust storm engulfed cars and buildings.

"It appeared from the east very quickly," said Brannan, who works for Compel Apparel in Gilbert. "Moments before the storm, it was hot and sunny, about 107 degrees. The wind and dust was followed by torrential downpour and severe lightning and thunder, about 15 minutes later."

He said that flying debris broke the windows of several cars, which then had to be towed, and that "substantial-sized" trees were snapped.

"It felt like we were inside of a tornado," Brannan said.

Scientists said that some of the season's dust storms had been the most intense since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. They have caused power outages and deadly crashes around the Southwest.

"The difference between the specific dust storm being seen here in the summer [a haboob] and a regular dust storm is like the difference between a river flood and a flash flood," said Dr. Tom Gill, an environmental science and engineering professor at the University of Texas, El Paso. "With a river flood, you can generally see the river rising steadily over time. … With a flash flood, all of a sudden a wall of water can come roaring down on an otherwise dry river bed."

Gill said that like flash floods, haboobs occurred suddenly, even during a clear, calm sky and with no advance warning.

On Monday evening, a stretch of the Texas interstate had to be shut down after a dust storm blinded drivers, leading to a 17-vehicle pileup that left one person dead.

"I looked in my rearview mirror and that tanker was coming and it was lights out," crash victim Jeremy Rogers told ABC News affiliate KMID-TV in Midland, Texas. "I'm thanking the Lord Jesus that I'm here alive. … You never know when it just comes like that."

From the West Coast to the East Coast, residents also are dealing with insect infestations thanks to the record-breaking hot temperatures - and the hottest 12 months ever recorded - and rains.

Michael Merchant, an entomologist, said the mild winter likely had led to stronger breeding periods for insects.

"They snuck up on us early," he said.

In New York, bees were reportedly stopping traffic and driving families from their homes, while in Victoria, Texas, officials said they were battling an increase in mosquitoes this summer.

And in Herald, Calif., locusts took up permanent residence early this summer on farms, devouring peaches, roses and hot peppers.

"If you stand in my backyard, I've got about 5,000 [locusts] per square yard," farmer Debbie Campbell told ABC News affiliate KABC-TV. "I'm used to bugs but I'm not used to this many bugs."

ABC News' Ryan Owens and Lana Zak contributed to this story.

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