Tehran, Iran swallowed by massive dust storm, walloped by 70 mph winds

A massive dust storm swept through the capital of Iran Monday, causing material damage and even deaths. (Casey Capachi/The Washington Post)

One moment it was sunny, the next moment it turned dark as night as a wall of sand, dust, and rain enveloped Tehran early this evening local time.

“The skies over Tehran suddenly turned black as a wall of sand hit the city from the west, my wife called me to come home “now”,” tweeted Thomas Erdbrink, the Tehran bureau chief for the New York Times.

The storm, sometimes referred to as a haboob (Arabic for blasting/drafting), hit without warning tweeted Alborz Habibi, an Iranian journalist and unleashed winds gusting to nearly 70 mph – downing trees.

As a result of the storm, at least one person has died according to state TV and The Iran Project.  Shargh Daily, an independent Iranian newspaper, reports 3 dead and 27 injured.

The views of dust storm sweeping into Iran’s capital city are apocalyptic.

Weather observations in Tehran show a stunning transformation in conditions as the storm struck.  A 5 p.m. local time, it was 91 degrees with a moderate breeze.  At 5:30 p.m., the temperature dropped to 73 degrees with a raging sustained wind at 55 mph gusting to 69 mph in a reported thunderstorm with heavy rain.  By 6 p.m., the temperature was down to 66 degrees, with a sustained wind of 35 mph.

The scene in Tehran is eerily reminiscent of the dust storm or “haboob” that raked Phoenix in July, 2011.  These kinds of dust storms usually form when thunderstorm downdrafts smash into the desert ground and stir up the dust.  Then, as the thunderstorm starts to decay, its outflow consolidates the dust into a solid wall and carries it towards some unlucky destination.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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