As many of you have noticed, we have big haboobs in Arizona and they can cause a lot of trouble for drivers who get caught up in them.
And now there's an app to alert you of an impending haboob, courtesy the University of Arizona's Information Technology Services web and mobile services team.
A haboob, for non-Zonies reading this, is a dust storm. Great big haboobs crop up during our spring and summer months in central to southern Arizona. Spring weather systems contribute to the storms, and in the summer, dry monsoons that have nothing to do with global warming can kick up winds that reach 100 mph.
In recent years (or at least during the past nine that I've lived here), the monsoon rains dried up before hitting the ground, leaving high winds to stir up the desert and create enormous dust walls that seem to stalk I-10 in particular.
Haboobs can be deadly. According to the U of A, two people died in dust storm incidents in 2011, a year that recorded 193 such storms in Arizona. Another 140 were injured, most in car accidents caused by the sudden darkness and very low visibility typical in large storms.
The haboob app was initiated by Kirk Astroth, a UA assistant dean at the College of Agriculture. Additional support came from the University's Mobile Matters initiative, SBS Technical Services, Student Affairs Marketing, and David Celaya, a senior majoring in computer science.
Here are a few tips that the app offers about how to handle an impending haboob:
- Do not drive into it or through it.
- Do not stop in a travel or emergency lane.
- Look for a safe place to pull over, away from the paved part of the road.
- Turn off all vehicle lights, including emergency flashers.
Best of all, the app is free! Right now, it's only available for iPhones via iTunes, but an Android version will be available in about a month.