8 Sand Storms Facts

What is a Sand Storm? Why are they named Haboob? Which Storm was the Worst? What to do if Stuck in a Storm? How does it Affect your Health?
Sand Storms

There are 19 different types of storms you can experience on your planet Earth. Sand storms and dust storms are one of these. They are a natural phenomenon occurring in several regions of the world. There have been some famous dust storms around the world that caused huge loss of both life and property. But why does dust storms become this dangerous is that it causes harm to nature as well as humans. So, today let us uncover the secrets of these storms.

1. What causes Dust Storms and Sand Storms?

When the air blowing in a desert gains speed and power, it picks up sand grains from the ground, causing a storm. The power of the wind carries the sand grains with such speed that it becomes impossible to see through them. A sand storm is a name given to the desert dust storm, and it only occurs in a desert and areas around the desert. (Also read What Causes Potholes?)

A dust storm is a collection of dust and debris of the land, lifted by high wind pressures during a thunderstorm. The dust storms can spread across several miles, and their height can reach up to a thousand feet from the land.

2. Why are they called Haboob?

The name Haboob originated from the Arabic word habb, which means to blow. Sand storms in the northern regions of Sudan came to be known as Haboob. Dust storms are observed in northern parts of Sudan from May to September. And it has been over a century since this term originated in Sudan. Meteorological departments from all over the world still use this word for dust storms or sand storms in any region. Haboobs are found in almost every part of the world, and mostly in parts of America, central Australia, and towards the edge of the Great Plains. (See Why are people afraid of storms?)

3. How long do they Last?

A sand storm can last for several hours to an entire day. Sometimes their duration can be less than 15 minutes, but the damage done is far than expected.  The dust storm that lasted for the longest duration was the Black Sunday Dust Storm, which occurred on April 14th, 1935. People say that its effect lasted for a month. (See 10 Whirlpool in Lakes Facts)

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4. What is the Average Speed of Sand Storms?

The average speed can reach up to 60 miles per hour and the particles spread in all directions. The particles rise to the height of 5000 feet and sometimes even more. The height of the storm depends upon the severity and speed of the winds. They can even cover an area of about 100 miles wide at one time. A dust storm covers a wide area because it travels at a high speed and until the speed of the winds slows down, it will continue to unleash havoc on whatever it comes across. (Also read Can it Rain Spiders?

5. Which Region is Affected by these Storms?

Sand storms affect people living in the deserts or people passing the desert during the storm, along with some nearby regions or villages. Therefore countries having a desert area will experience these sand storms once in a while. The most prominent desert of the world, are found in Northern Africa, Northern Asia, Australasia, Western Asia, Southern Africa, North America, Central Asia, Eastern Africa, Southern Asia, and Western Africa. These deserts cover a vast land of the continents, and major cities are affected by these storms. (Also read Where is Turkey Situated?)

6. Which was the Worst Storm?

Black Sunday has been the worst and most severe dust storm in human history. It was named so because it happened on Sunday, April 14th, 1935, in the United States. It was the worst dust storm because the damage done by it was immense. This disaster displaced almost 300 million tons of topsoil from the prairie region. The storm started from the Oklahoma panhandle during the afternoon then moved towards Texas. The areas affected the most were Oklahoma and Texas, but surrounding areas also experienced the effects of dust and sand storms. (See Shipwrecks In The Ocean)

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7. What are the other Examples of Famous Dust Storms? 

After this worst recorded storm, several other storms have been recorded.

  • Great Bakersfield Dust Storm of 1977, in Southern San Joaquin Valley, California from 19th to 21st December 1977.
  • Melbourne Dust storm occurred on 8th February 1983 in Victoria, Australia.
  • In November 1991, again San Joaquin Valley, California experienced the Interstate 5 State Dust Storm.
  • South Australia-New South Wales got trapped in an Australian dust storm on 23rd September 2009.
  • Tehran Dust Storm blew over Tehran in Iran on 2nd June 2014.
  • During 2018 India has faced several dust storms from 2nd and 3rd May 2018, which took the lives of hundreds of people and numerous injured in different states all over Northern India
  • China drought and Dust Storms occurred during the Spring of 2010 in different parts of China and Southeast Asia. And in 2021, various regions in China, South Korea, and Mongolia observed the severe dust storm during March 2021. (Also read Where does Sea Glass come from?)

8. What to do if Stuck in a Sand Storm?

  • If at home then you should close all the windows and doors.
  • Avoiding the trip to the market or anywhere outside the home is necessary for such situations.
  • And if it is very important, then wearing a mask is the least you can do to avoid inhaling dust and debris during sand storms. 
  • If living in dust storm-prone areas, then keep the trees on the lawn of short or medium height. In case they fall off there would not be much damage to property or life. (Also read What to do when an elevator falls?)
  • The maintenance of the roof regularly is important, the indoor ventilation should be of adequate quality, and using an air purifier is a better choice to remove airborne dust
  • If while driving a dust storm appears, then you should try to take your vehicle off the road as quickly as possible. You should never wait for the storm to get worse for parking your car off the road.
  • Never move in the direction where the storm is coming from. Always drive in the opposite direction. Then taking shelter at a place where you are safe from getting hit by any flying objects is a better choice. (Also read Why Is It Called Jaywalking?)
  • To avoid any hazard during a dust storm, pointed things like rakes or umbrellas must be kept inside the house. Because these things will fly off with the wind and may cause damage to humans or animals. 

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8. What is its Impact on Health?

From a regular and prolonged exposure to sand storms or dust storms, one can develop a disorder named dust pneumonia. In this condition, a person’s lungs are filled with dust resulting in inflamed alveoli (cup-shaped cavities in lungs where oxygen is exchanged with carbon dioxide). Because of this, the lungs are unable to clean themselves from the dust and debris. Several people suffering from dust pneumonia were not able to survive. (Also read 14 Disastrous Health Effects of Smoking)

  • A person shows symptoms like breathing difficulty, chest pain, high fever, and cough.
  • Other than this, people can develop throat allergies, nasal infections, sore eyes, irritation in the eyes and nose, breathing problems, bronchitis, eye infections, etc.

Between 1930-1935, dozens of people have died because of this disorder. In some regions, there is not even an exact record of how many people, lost their lives to this. (Also read What Would Happen if There was No Sunlight?)

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