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Phoenix hit by sandstorm, ready to clean up

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 | 3:20 p.m. CDT; updated 5:27 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 6, 2011
A giant dust storm covers Phoenix on Tuesday.

PHOENIX  — The air around the Phoenix area was a hazy shade of brown, and a layer of dirt coated cars and buildings Wednesday following a massive dust storm the night before.

The huge dust wall that crossed the metro Phoenix area Tuesday night drastically reduced visibility, halting all flights coming in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport until conditions improved.

Winds ripped up trees, tossed around lawn furniture and caused hazardous driving conditions.

The storm knocked out power to about 9,400 Salt River Project electric customers, The Arizona Republic reported.

Wednesday morning, the white roof over Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the venue for next week's Major League Baseball All Star Game, was coated with thick, brown dust.

The National Weather Service in Phoenix said there is a slight chance of thunderstorms Wednesday evening including blowing dust.

Tuesday's storm was part of Arizona's monsoon season, which typically starts in mid-June and lasts through September.

The dust cloud that moved across the Phoenix valley had formed in an afternoon storm in the Tucson area and then rolled north across the desert before sweeping over the city like an enormous wave, said National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Iniguez.

Radar data showed the storm's towering dust wall had reached as high as 8,000 to 10,000 feet, or nearly 2 miles, he said.

"This was pretty significant," Iniguezsaid. "We heard from a lot of people who lived here for a number of storms, and this was the worst they'd seen."

By the time the dust cloud neared the metropolitan area, it had started to dissolve, but it still towered over the city with a wall of at least 5,000 feet, according to the weather service.

KSAZ-TV in Phoenix reported the storm appeared to be roughly 50 miles wide in some spots, and it briefly blanketed the city's downtown at around nightfall.

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