Haboobs: Blizzards of the Southwest

Haboobs may sound funny, but they are no laughing matter. The giant dust storms that engulf entire cities in the Southwest can cause damage in and around homes and health problems for those directly exposed to them.

One such dust storm (the word haboob is Arabic in origin and more commonly used to describe dust storms in North Africa, Arabia and India) blew through New Mexico and Texas this week. The storm reduced visibility to near zero and was followed by much colder air.

Here are a few tips to help keep you and your property safe in the event of a dust storm:

Before a Storm:

  • Close all of your home’s doors and windows and seal other exterior openings.
  • Turn off your air conditioning and heating systems to avoid drawing dust inside and clogging ducts, fans, blowers, filters and vents.
  • Park your vehicles in the garage.

During a Storm:

  • Remain indoors or seek cover if outdoors.
  • Remain hydrated–carry and drink plenty of water.
  • If you’re in a vehicle, roll up the windows and turn off vents that bring outside air in. If visibility is low, pull off the road and turn off your headlights. Often, if your exterior lights are on while pulled over, other drivers will be drawn to your taillights increasing the chance of a rear-end collision.

After a Storm:

  • Inspect and replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters as necessary.
  • If you were driving in the storm, have a mechanic inspect and clean your engine, radiator, headlights, wheel bearings and brakes.