A huge dust storm, called a haboob, swept across southern Arizona Monday evening, engulfing Yuma and barreling across the landscape like a harbinger of the apocalypse. Jesse Watson chased the stormfront across the countryside, capturing the incredible sight in a stunning time-lapse.
When monsoon season starts in Arizona, Jesse Watson keeps an eye on the radar. As soon as he saw the storm building late Monday afternoon, Watson grabbed his gear and jumped in his truck to head an hour east, driving until he was close enough to capture the massive wall of dust racing toward him.
Leapfrogging the storm, Watson set up his gear (two Nikon D810 bodies, an 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens, and a 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens) ahead of the storm to capture it as it hit and then loaded up and raced west until he could set up in another location, finally ending in his hometown of Yuma.
After traveling 200 miles and taking more than 800 images, Watson had captured a striking view of an incredible natural phenomenon. A haboob, an Arabic word for "blasting or drifting," is an intense dust storm often created as a thunderstorm weakens, when a downdraft blows dust and debris along the storm's direction of travel. With a storm wall that can measure up to 62 miles wide and a few miles high and winds that can reach speeds of more than 60 miles an hour, it's no wonder the National Weather Service in Phoenix issued a warning of "life-threatening travel."
Luckily, for those of us who don't live in a place where we can experience this stunning sight, there are photographers out there like Watson who document natural wonders.
Lead image used with permission of Jesse Watson.