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As it turns out, longtime New Mexicans know about haboobs. We just didn’t know there was a name for them.
The word “Haboob” was totally new to me and to most New Mexicans until a haboob hit Phoenix two years ago. When something hits the nation’s sixth largest city, it’s a bigger deal than when it hits Deming, or even El Paso, Texas.
When I grew up in the dry, windy 1940s and early 1950s, I can remember several haboobs. We called them big dust storms. My wife remembers them from El Paso. They looked like a very tall wall of sand coming toward us. We knew to run inside and close the windows.
The term haboob originated in the Middle East and that is where they most frequently occur. President Jimmy Carter’s plan to free the Iranian hostages in 1980 was thwarted by a haboob. In fact there were two of them, a small one followed by a big one. They sent aircraft crashing into each other and destroyed a plan that otherwise might have worked.
The lack of awareness of the impending haboobs was blamed on poor weather forecasting in the nearby vast desert region. But it turns out that haboobs form quickly on the front of desert storms. Recently, both Carlsbad and Albuquerque have reported haboobs.
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