Dust storm sweeps through eastern Washington and north Idaho

Jose Castro – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Spokane, WA, United States (4E) – A haboob, or wall of dust blanketed through eastern Washington and northern Idaho last Tuesday. The rare dust cloud was created by the east -west line of thunderstorms that was moving out of northeastern Oregon right before 3 pm PDT.

The havoc of the dust storm resulted in a six vehicle pile up on Interstate 90, leaving five individuals injured. The dust storm caused near zero visibility in areas of Adams and Whitman counties as well as Ritzville. High winds measured at nearly 60 mph causing trees to fall in Ritzville, Wa and Moscow Id.

Power lines were also downed in Spokane, Wa and Moscow Id, leaving over 15,000 customers without power.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Fugazzi, the area of Washington experiences this weather disturbance every two year or so. He added that winds would pick up dust before thunderstorms hit areas. This was exactly the conditions present when the weather front leaving Oregon moved into the Eastern Washington and western Idaho area moving northward.

=\The term haboob comes from the Arabic word ‘haab’ meaning wind or blow. These are very strong sand storms that carry dust and other debris that move into hot and dry areas ahead of thunderstorms. These weather disturbances are common in arid regions of the globe such as the Saharan desert, the Arabian Penisula and the Guinean Gulf.

These walls of dust form as a result of a downdraft of a thunderstorm when it surges ahead. The downdraft lifts dust and debris and this wall can reach to nearly 10,000 feet. A warning in the form of a tweet was issued by the Spokane office of the National Weather Service. It read, “The leading edge of the haboob was 4 to 5 miles ahead of its parent thunderstorms at its prime.”

30 mph winds were measured at the Spokane International Airport. Avista Utilities reported that power outages were reported in the Grangeville Id area as well as the Spokane and Palouse areas of Washington State.

The double weather front, the haboob and the succeeding thunderstorm damaged four buildings as well and caused the destruction of one home. The house, located in Mead, an area north of Spokane, Wa., was burned down after the thunderstorm had passed the area. No cause of the fire was immediately determined and the fire razed nearly 10 acres before being put under control. Luckily, no one was hurt in the blaze.

Other emergency measures were taken in central Washington, as the evacuation of about 8,000 people was ordered by Grant County Sheriff’s authorities at the Moses Lake county fairgrounds because of the pending storm. All the events, such as the concert and the fair activities were cancelled.

It was reported that Washington experienced the second warmest temperature on record while Oregon reached its warmest temperature on record. Idaho, recorded its sixth warmest while areas in Washington recorded three digit temperatures for 13 days in July. The weather has caused tinder dry conditions resulting in several wildfires in the area.

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