Dust Storm in Lubbock, Texas (Photo: John Holsenbeck, WFO Lubbock)
(Oct. 20, 2011) -- A strong storm system passing out of the Rockies sent a cold front racing through the Texas Panhandle and across the Southern Plains on October 17. As the front moved south, it created an intense dust storm, also known as a Haboob.
Wind gusts up to 75 mph. caused quite a bit of havoc across the region. The National Weather Service forecast office in Lubbock received numerous reports of tree and structural damage, downed power lines, some power outages and several wildfires.
Visibilities dropped to near zero as the dust storm passed through Lubbock, bringing traffic to a standstill. The sky turned a dark orange-brown and a number of long-term residents said the dust storm was one of the worst they had ever experienced.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Tim Oram noted, "The dust cloud rose to a height of 8,000 feet as it moved through Lubbock."
The storm was so intense it drew comparisons to the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s when the region was also mired in an exceptional drought. In fact, 2011 is on pace to shatter the record for the driest year in recorded history for both Lubbock and Childress, Texas.
The ongoing drought has led directly to less vegetation and more open fields than normal, creating a much larger potential source of dust than in typical years. Once you have the large dust source, all that is needed is wind to carry is aloft.
On Oct. 17, the wind came in the form of a particularly intense cold front that plowed southward across the area. The combination of the severe winds and the abundant dust resulted in the production of an impressive storm.
Stratford, Texas, April 14, 1935 (left) and Lubbock, Texas, Oct. 17, 2011