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South Dakota 'haboob' storm photo shows creepy hand reaching down from sky

Bruno Cooke May 13, 2022
Dust storm rolling over residential area

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A photograph shared on Twitter by WCCB Charlotte meteorologist James Scott today shows a creepy, hand-like dust formation reaching down from the sky in a South Dakota “haboob”. What is a haboob, and whence came the giant dust-hand?

WCCB meteorologist shares photos of the haboob rolling through South Dakota, featuring giant hand

James Scott shared the images on Thursday evening (12 May 2022). 

His before-and-after shots of the haboob “rolling through” the I-90 between Sioux Falls and Hartford, in South Dakota, have picked up hundreds of likes on Twitter.

Photo taken in Phoenix, United States

Others, too, have been sharing their experiences of the weather South Dakota is facing right now. 

But Scott’s photo has something the others don’t: in the top left corner of the image, taller than a building, is what looks like a giant hand reaching down from the sky, made of dust.

Assuming the photo hasn’t been doctored, the strange, giant dust-hand must have appeared entirely by coincidence. It probably disappeared within seconds. Zoom in on the left-hand image for a closer look.

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Similar photos emerge from extreme weather in NW Iowa and South Dakota

Photos of Sioux Falls’ recent spate of extreme weather – including what people are calling a haboob – have been flooding Twitter over the last 24 hours.

One shows a massive dust cloud rolling over some flat plains.

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NWS Sioux Falls shared a time lapse video of the haboob rolling in. It apparently caused “significant structural damage” and brought trees to the ground.

From their front yard, Twitter user Jim Clem shared a photo of a wall of dust enveloping the horizon. See below.

What is a ‘haboob’ and how often do they happen in the US?

Haboobs are intense dust storms. They usually occur in the desert – most commonly in places like the Sahara and Sahel regions, in the Arabian Peninsula and Australia. It comes from the Arabic word “habb, meaning “to blow.”

Similar meteorological phenomena have also been recorded on Mars.

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In the US, collapsing thunderstorms sometimes result in haboob occurrences. The states that most often experience dust storms or sandstorms are Arizona, New Mexico, eastern California and Texas.

But, as a slew of recent reports show, haboobs can also happen in Iowa and South Dakota. KCCI wrote this morning that strong winds had kicked dust up from the fields, causing the extreme weather event.

Meanwhile, the Argus Leader confirmed one fatality during the severe weather in Sioux Falls.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.