Watch: Massive Dust Storm Swells Across Arizona

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The name for these massive dust storms that fill the sky—a haboob—sounds deceptively playful. The reality in the Phoenix area yesterday, as the wave of dust rolled across the desert, was a sudden blackout filled with sand churning in 50-mph winds. Ha-yikes. 

Reports of damage are minimal. (Flights had to be delayed and plenty of people suffered power outages.) But recordings of the reportedly 5,000-foot swell look apocalyptic. One brave weatherman went out in the storm and came back looking like he’d been in an explosion at a nutmeg factory, saying he had so much sand in his mouth that it felt like he was chewing on grape nuts. Someone else posted a time lapse video on YouTube (see above), where you can watch what it was like to drive toward the haboob and into its dark heart. Meanwhile, others snapped some pretty gnarly photos.

(PHOTOS: The Great Phoenix Dust Storm)

The name haboob comes from the Arabic word for wind, haab, and these storms are most common in the Sahara, particularly in the Sudan. But they can occur in deserts across the globe, including those in our own Southwest. Local news outlets reported that this particular haboob was 50 miles wide. “A very large and historic dust storm moved through a large swatch of Arizona,” the National Weather Service posted on its site. Then, in classic government understatement, they sum up by calling the haboob an “impressive event.” Indeed, the sandy sky swallowing the earth was quite the noteworthy occurrence.

(PHOTOS: Wildfires Burn in New Mexico and Arizona)

Katy Steinmetz is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @KatySteinmetz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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