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Javelinas in the sky

A series of deadlines are keeping me chained to the studio bench, more or less, but I slipped my shackles yesterday to grab some groceries. The National Weather Service was predicting a monsoon event in the afternoon, but I figured I had time to run out for some bread and fruit.

The hot blue bowl of the Phoenix sky was rimmed with enormous thunderheads — towering marbled cumuli were dropping rain on the higher country around us, but so far they’d been held off by the city’s searing pressure bubble of dry air and pollutants. These huge, soggy clouds can bring thunderstorms and rain or hail to the low desert, or they can build thousands of feet up into the atmosphere and chill their heads.  When this happens, the heavy, cold air at the clouds’ lofty tops collapses, hitting the ground like a bomb.  The shock wave of dense air meeting loose desert soil roils up into a haboob: a massive, strongly directional dust storm, which charges snorting across the desert led by its rolling brown snout of grit.  Inexorable is not an exaggeration here: the dust cloud swallows everything, leaving variable amounts of itself and other wind-borne detritus behind.

Above, Leading edge of yesterday’s dust storm.  It’s easy to see the difference between the fluffy, water-vaporous cumuli above, and the dirt-laden, brown snout of the haboob, about to plow over the stores like a rooting, heavenly javelina.  This photo and the one immediately below were taken on my cell phone, no Photoshopping at all.

That’s what we got yesterday.  I’d just finished my shopping, and was scuttling across the parking lot laden with groceries like a saharan dung beetle when the edge of the storm rolled over the neighborhood to the east.  Within minutes, the blue sky had gone brown and the wind hit, so strong that I had to work hard to shut the truck door behind me.

These photos were taken around 5:40 pm 21 July as the haboob hit the corner of Thomas Road and 44th Street in Phoenix. (all photos A.Shock)

While I was standing in the clear taking the photos above, my neighborhood had already been engulfed by the cloud.  The drive home was murky, but mercifully short.  Here’s what it looked like inside the dustbelly >>

Update:

Of j-pigs and j-pegs: the profile of the Heavenly Javelina Haboob inspired the following, originally published on my Facebook page.  It’s the face of one of my clay javelinas superimposed on the actual dust cloud.  Uncanny resemblance!  Click to enlarge:

Posted by Allison on Jul 22nd 2012 08:58 am | 2 Comments
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2 Responses to “Javelinas in the sky”

  1. Robertaon 22 Jul 2012 at 12:16 pm link comment

    Wow. Those dust storms are something else. Like a snow storm only hotter and a different color.

  2. Lori Kovashon 22 Jul 2012 at 2:49 pm link comment

    You are incredible! I wish I could be as creative as you are. Love the way you write. 🙂

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