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Weird little storm hit without warning


Last updated 8/6/2014 at 1:52pm

Erika Jennings

The edge of a strange dust storm heads up Lake Roosevelt just below Spring Canyon Saturday. The photo was posted on The Star's Facebook page by Erika Jennings.

Thanks to the observations of our astute community members, we can classify that remarkably weird little storm that blew through Aug. 2 as a type that is more common to Africa, the arid Middle East, Central Australia and the American Southwest.

Using the photo shared on The Star's Facebook page by Erika Jennings and the quick research of Glo Carrol, what we could just call a dust storm might more accurately be called a "haboob."

A map showing a concentration of lightning strikes in the Coulee Dam area within a half hour before 4:45 p.m., with more than 50 strikes within five miles, as recorded by an iPhone app called WeatherBug.

The Wikipedia entry on this phenomenon says, "During thunderstorm formation, winds move in a direction opposite to the storm's travel, and they move from all directions into the thunderstorm. When the storm collapses and begins to release precipitation, wind directions reverse, gusting outward from the storm and generally gusting the strongest in the direction of the storm's travel."

Then when the downdraft of cold air hits the ground it kicks up the dust, creating a wall of sediment, ahead of the storm, that can be miles wide and high. They approach with little or no warning.

That certainly seemed to be the case in the coulee area Saturday. Boaters on area lakes suddenly found themselves in very rough water.

The storm's electrical activity, although widespread, certainly concentrated on Coulee Dam, as evidenced by the record as presented by WeatherBug, an app that alerts users when lightning nears.


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