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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The monsoon that almost took me to Oz

My first Arizona monsoon was quite memorable. I had just moved to Arizona from the northwest. I was adjusting to the heat and humidity that is July. My car was a Jeep Wrangler - open in the back, with only a small fabric cloth providing shade to the front seats.

One afternoon, I was driving to my job at a local restaurant. Along the way, I noticed a large wall of dust, moving across the horizon, heading my way. I figured I could make it to the restaurant before the ominous-looking cloud reached me. How fast can it move, right? Within minutes, the wind picked up around me. I rolled up my windows (Remember, the back of my Jeep was wide open to the elements) and looked around. I was on a street with no businesses for me to duck into when the dust cloud hit.

Picture courtesy of NWS/NOAA

I pulled over to the side of the road just before the swirling, yellow dust cloud enveloped me. I grabbed my sweatshirt on the seat beside me and tucked my face into it. And I waited. I felt little pieces of dirt blowing across my arms and legs, feeling like a piece of wood being rubbed by a piece of sandpaper. My hair was whipping around and my Jeep was shaking. How long is this going to last? Is my Jeep moving? Thank goodness I have on my seatbelt. Please stop soon. As the many thoughts were flying around my brain, I noticed the wind starting to die down. My arms and legs did not feel like they were being exfoliated anymore. When I looked up from my sweatshirt, I hardly recognized my Jeep. It had gone from a nice, clean gray interior to tan. Dirt was everywhere – every part of my Jeep and my body was covered in the remnants of that dust cloud.

I got out of my Jeep and shook myself off… and created my own dust cloud.

This week is Monsoon Awareness Week. While we all enjoy the rain that a monsoon can bring, we need to remember the hazards that go along with it: lightning strikes, high winds and dust storms, wildfires, flash floods and extreme heat.

Learn more about severe weather and how to prepare yourself at

Check out Arizona Department of Transportation’s Pull Aside, Stay Alive campaign.

The National Weather Service has some great information regarding severe weather.

The Arizona Department of Insurance has information regarding claims as a result of storms and other disasters.

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