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More storms, dust predicted for Valley

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Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 12:57 pm

It takes just 2 1/2 minutes and costs as little as five dollars; it’s not surprising the Hog Wash Express has dusty car after filthy truck after dirt-caked van file through the car wash following Tuesday’s haboob.

“It’s been controlled chaos all day,” said Brian Epstein, the president and CEO of the car wash, Wednesday.

More thunderstorms are forecast for the Valley, and Tuesday’s haboob could be the first and largest in a series of smaller dust storms this week.

The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook that includes thunderstorms, a small chance of measurable rain and possible wind gusts exceeding 50 mph for the rest of the week.

Cars were lined up down Priest Drive when the car wash opened at 7 a.m. and kept a steady flow all day Wednesday, Epstein said. Epstein called in his entire staff to work Wednesday, expecting the heavy workload that the storm was sure to bring in.

In the 17 months the Hog Wash Express has been open at 1406 W. University Drive, Epstein said nothing like this day has happened before, a day when they are washing “hundreds and hundreds of cars” following one of Phoenix’s worst dust storms in recent memory.

“People in the office who have lived here 30 or 40 years have never seen anything like this,” Charlotte Dewey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Phoenix, said about Tuesday’s dust storm.

The haboob, just another name for a large dust storm, was caused when dissipating thunderstorms from the east collided with winds from the southeast, Dewey said.

Dust storms can be difficult to forecast, especially their timing, length and size, Dewey said. During the storm, dust particles in the East Valley far exceeded the federal health standards. The storm kicked up more than double the amount allowed, said Holly Ward, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Air Quality Department.

The air quality is currently back to normal standards, but Ward said there is concern of future wind.

“Any significant wind is going to kick the loose soil back up,” Ward said.

The fine, particulate matter can stay in the air, and measures should be taken when cleaning up the dust, Ward said. Instead of using a leaf blower that will send the dust back into the air, residents should use a broom or water to clean their outside areas. Ward also says that until the desert crust has stabilized, residents shouldn’t use off-road vehicles and should try to avoid driving or parking on dirt roads.

The best thing to do when a dust storm hits is to avoid going outside or driving, said Steve Harrison, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

“If you can’t see, you shouldn’t be driving,” Harrison said.

If a storm hits while you’re on the road, Harrison recommends slowing down and pulling off to the side.

“It’s important to turn all lights off because a lot of the time other drivers see taillights and assume the car is still moving,” Harrison said.

• Contact writer; (480) 898-5645 or

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