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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
10:10 PM Tue, Sept. 25th

Column: Loving Arizona - haboobs, dust devils and all

The monsoon season is upon us (in case you've been away on vacation) and it is time to anchor the trees and tie down the loose items on our decks and patios. Oh, and you might want to hold onto small children, stack the patio furniture and run for cover. Big blowing gusts of wind hurtling large objects, uprooting weak trees and creating a layer of dust on everything is one of the pitfalls of living in our beautiful corner of the world. It's called "monsoon madness" and it's making me pretty mad.

Last week I was standing outside of a home in Prescott Valley, taking a few pictures. Somehow, without warning, I got caught in a nasty dust storm! That's right, I was taken by surprise, swept up in the gritty, dusty, dirty whirlwind of horror that we love to call "dust devil." I think I must have screamed, because a few of the neighbors came running, but immediately broke out in laughter. Hey, what's so funny about seeing a woman immersed in brown sand? Hmm, perhaps they were laughing because I might have been yelling a few words that can't be printed in this family paper. Needless to say, it was a bad day for picture taking. (Not to mention a really bad hair day).

I live in Skull Valley and what's up with all of the dust? If summer is the time of brilliant sunsets, it is also the season for dust. Some scientist in California claims that dust particles actually "bring us together," since he asserts that little dirt molecules from as far away as China can be sitting on our dining room table in Arizona. I suppose this fact brings new and sentimental value to the grime that settles on our furniture. Who knew that our dust was so exotic? I mentioned this to my husband, Doug. I told him I was reluctant to dust because I couldn't bear to give little molecules from a village in China such disrespect by simply wiping them away. (He was not amused).

Hey, there are worse things than dusty furniture or a dust devil. Did you see on the news the dreaded haboob - a wall of dust like a tidal wave gathering force as it moved across the Phoenix valley? Dear Readers, if you ever see a brown-gold mass over a mile high and 100 miles long rushing towards you, it is time to turn around and run for your life! Blinding, searing, choking dust storms are one more reason to fear Phoenix during the summer. My husband tells me not to worry about such potential disasters. Of course I should worry! Who wants to be swept up in a dust cloud as high as a mountain? That is why I am reluctant to drive down the hill and face a haboob!

This place is a little creepy during the monsoons. A woman in Chino Valley emailed me to say that she thinks one of her horses got so spooked by lightning one night, that it has made him "goofy." She says that he is acting mighty strange since the last big storm, refusing to get out of his corral, standing in a corner, rocking back and forth and shaking his head. A man in Dewey said that his rooster has ceased to make one sound (bet the neighbors are thankful) since the last thunderstorm rolled through and walks around "like a chicken with his head off." Oh, and none of my neighbor's 10 chickens have laid one egg since the monsoons started! Yikes, maybe we should call a vet.

Stories of dogs hiding under beds (we have one that hides in our bathtub at the first crack of thunder), cats chasing their tails and bats hanging upside down on patio overhangs are a few of the "weird happenings" during monsoon season. People have also called to say that their animals are aware of storms approaching by all manner of "odd behavior," from barking, hopping, hiding, rolling, neighing and chirping. It seems our pets or wildlife are "tuned in" to the weather. A woman in Prescott says that she can gauge the seriousness of a storm when the birds stop singing. Little bunnies, with brains the size of peanuts, seem to have the forecast all figured out. They hop for cover and huddle together, long before the first drops of rainfall hits the ground.

And finally some rain! What good is all this humidity and storm clouds without a good downpour? The Navajo say that when clouds look like sheep, the rains will be coming. I'm looking at a herd of sheep right now forming in the northern sky. Watch out for haboobs, loose objects, dust devils and flashes of lightning. Next time you see the wind roaring, remember to stay safe and head for cover. With a little luck, plenty of sheep will be gathering. Oh . . . don't bother to dust the furniture . . . just enjoy the rain!

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor who lives in Skull valley. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com