The August 18th, 2011 dust storm

With the massive storms that built up south of town, the dusty outflows formed a beautiful, long wall that gained momentum and pushed its way into the greater Phoenix area last night. I decided to head to the south side of town this time and used Queen Creek’s elevated shoulder near I-10 to get a quickie timelapse of it moving in.

I have to say, all the craze over the July 5th haboob/dust storm was awesome, but I’ve really discovered a love for seeing these things in motion. The way the clouds develop over the top of them, the way the wall of dust itself moves…because it’s sometimes hard to see when you are just standing there.

Had a fun time shooting this last night…a guy who’s car broke down up a few hundred feet borrowed my phone and we talked a little bit about what I was doing. Think someone else gained an appreciation for watching these things roll in since he said he had actually never taken the time to observe one before.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, 290 exposures)

A thing to note about this timelapse. In the beginning portions, the cloud formation on the center-left is actually dropping rain in what we call a “microburst.” This microbrust was right over the San Tan Valley last night and caused all kinds of damage. I didn’t know I caught it until the local Channel 3 meteorologist Royal Norman noticed it in the timelapse this morning.

Microbursts are basically quick downdrafts of rain and wind, sometimes the wind can hit the ground at speeds from 50-100mph and then explode in all directions. Lots of localized damage from storms like this. Below is a sort of “enhanced” still frame of the microburst.

  • Dave DiCello

    Love these time lapses Mike! That’s pretty crazy that you actually caught on of those microbursts, the clouds look so menacing and angry!

  • Scott Wood

    Another awesome time lapse. My luck has been terrible on getting out of my day job in time to get them lately, but as long as you are shooting them, I don’t need to 🙂

    I love the still you posted from it as well.

  • Eje Gustafsson

    Very nice. I love those clouds and they seems to move towards the oncoming sand cloud.

  • Chris DeAngelis

    Great work! How far apart were your shots for the timelapse? Are you still shooting in P mode when you capture your timelapses?

  • Mike

    Chris, I think these were around 4-5 seconds apart…I knew I only had about 20 minutes, so I cranked up the speed.

    Not P mode, just a manual mode, f/16, iso 100 and adjusted the SS once or twice during it.

  • Michelle Feeney

    Nice work Mike!

  • Chris Frailey

    Love the ending to it Mike. Good stuff.

  • Jim Denham

    Great stuff Mike! Cool that you caught the microburst!

  • larry

    Excellent work, Mike!! Seriously awesome!

  • Lori

    Very nice! My husband will be very glad to see this! He saw it while it was happening and was telling me about it and was excited due to the microburst. I was in Tempe and only saw the dust cloud so now I too have been able to see it and will share it with him tonight!! Thank You!

  • Rob Hanson

    Once again… superb!

    This was truly impressive — menacing, scary, and quite gorgeous.

  • murphyz

    Very nice Mike – I always wonder what happens after we leave the scene? Is there a mad rush while you try and cover the camera and jump in the car to avoid the dust? Do you just sit there waiting for it to pass?

  • Mike

    Hey Michael – Not much of a rush, this time I hung in there after it hit, but I do tend to go sit in the car, put the gear away. It’s not great to be out in one of these too much, it’s the chief (believed) cause of Valley Fever, so the less you are out in it breathing the dust, the better 🙂