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.

13 replies
  1. Scott Wood
    Scott Wood says:

    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.

  2. Mike
    Mike says:

    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.

  3. Lori
    Lori says:

    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!

  4. murphyz
    murphyz says:

    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?

  5. Mike
    Mike says:

    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 🙂

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