Xenophobia Meets Meteorology

Courtesy: National Weather Service Phoenix

I almost fell off my chair Friday morning when I saw an article in the New York Times about haboobs in Arizona.

Apparently some Arizonans have taken offense to the term “haboob” being used the describe the recent Phoenix area dust storms. Seriously? Haboob is an Arabic word that is used fairly commonly in the meteorological community for years. Haboob is derived from “habb” which is Arabic for wind.

Apparently the local TV stations in Phoenix recently began referring to dust storms as haboobs which lead to some frighteningly narrow minded and xenophobic letters to the editor on azcentral.com:

While other countries in the world may call them that, this is the United States. Even more, this is Arizona, not some Middle Eastern nation. I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob. How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term that is clearly an Arizona phenomenon?

And:

Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman! Who gave you the right to use the word “haboob” in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike. We have our own culture, too, sir, and we don’t take kindly to being robbed of it.

Xenophobia comes from the Greek work “xenos” which means foreigner or stranger. Hope no one has a problem with that.

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Haboob!

It’s not every day we get to say “haboob” on TV. The other night on The Weather Channel they had live pictures of an impressive haboob heading into Phoenix on a thunderstorm’s outflow boundary.

Haboob is Arabic for dust or sandstorm and is the official word we use for such events. Sadly, the National Weather Service doesn’t have a “haboob warning” or “haboob watch” but I think they should.

Here’s a hilarious clip from the Rachel Maddow Show last night.

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Cell Phone Cameras are Great

With virtually everyone having a cell phone camera these days we’re able to catch extreme weather events like never before. The haboob (I know, funny name) that struck Phoenix last night has spread through social media like wildfire with people catching the dust storm on their blackberrys, droids, and iPhones.

The Hampden County tornado last month was documented by video better than any other New England tornado in history with videos from near and even inside the tornado popping up on YouTube within hours of the storm.

The proliferation of cell phone cameras also allows us to catch some people doing very stupid things. Here’s a video of a father who isn’t much of a parent after driving his kids into a tornado on purpose that I blogged about in April.

Other stupid people who do stupid things when drunk now have cell phone cameras to thank for capturing moments they probably don’t remember or would like to forget when sober. The drunk guy at Bill’s Seafood who did a back flip off the Singing Bridge this weekend is a perfect example. Two YouTube videos have surfaced of this guy in the days following his jump. Next time you plan on jumping off the Singing Bridge remember that the deck at Bill’s in the summer is always packed with people and chances are most of them have cell phone cameras.