'Haboob' Storm System Covers Palm Springs, California with Dust

The storm left drivers struggling to see the road.

August 22, 2014, 8:08 AM

— -- Strong winds blasted dust and sand through the Southern California skies, including Palm Springs, creating a dust storm, known as a haboob.

The dust, whipped around by 40-mph winds, brought down trees and left drivers with low visibility.

Scott Pam was driving in the area Thursday night on his way home when he said he saw a “huge wall of sand and storm” approach and the storm strike. The wind ripped the door straps off his Jeep.

“It was blowing so bad that I could not even see 20 feet in front of my Jeep,” Pam, 52, told ABC News. “It ripped the door stay off of the driver’s door. ... The [door] was blown so hard that it was slammed against the hood of the Jeep.”

Pam, a photographer, pulled over on his drive between San Bernardino and Bermuda Dunes, California, and started taking pictures of the phenomenon.

PHOTO: Dust and sand left drivers with low visibility in southern California, Aug. 21, 2014.
Dust and sand left drivers with low visibility in southern California, Aug. 21, 2014.
Scott Pam Photography

ABC News meteorologist Dan Peck said, “The winds came from strong thunderstorms moving through the area Thursday night, which were more intense and numerous due to the ongoing monsoon season.You get an outflow of strong winds ahead of the storm and those winds whip up the dust and create the dust storm phenomenon.”

Haboobs are giant walls of dust resulting from the combination of strong winds and dry conditions. They are common in dry, desert areas, including Southern California and the Southwest, and are often seen in areas of the Middle East, where the name of the phenomenon originates.

“Haboob” comes from the Arabic word habb, meaning “wind.”

“The perfect combination of an ongoing drought, monsoon season and numerous severe storms in the region created the conditions for a dust storm in the area,” Peck explained.

The storm also bent trees across California’s Coachella Valley, but there were no reports of serious injuries.

A Palm Springs man was sent to the hospital after he was hit by an uprooted tree, ABC News affiliate KESQ reported.

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