Haboob versus Sandstorm

This is from the i paper a few days ago:

A wall of dust raced toward Lubbock, Texas, on Sunday, and the National Weather Service crew out caution on its Facebook page. ‘A haboob is rapidly approaching the Lubbock airport and may affect the city as well.” the meteorologist wrote .

The use of the meteorological term “haboob”, is a word with Arabic roots, caused a storm of its own. Reader John Fulllbright wrote: “Haboob!? I’m a Texan. Not a foreigner from Iraq or Afghanistan. they might have kabob but around here in the Panhandle of TEXAS, we have Dust Storms. So would you mind staying it that way. I’ll find another weather service.”

Brenda Daffier added: “In Texas, nimrod, this is called a sandstorm. We’ve had them for years! If you would like to move to the Middle East you can call this a haboob.”

The Weather Service’s use of haboob was entirely appropriate. It describes a situation in which a collapsing thunderstorm exhales a burst of wind. This collects dust in the surrounding arid environment. The dust can grow into a towering dark cloud, the kabob that sweeps across the landscape, cutting visibility to near zero.

Objections are not unique to Texas. The New York Times wrote about an uproar about the use of the term by local television in Arizona in 2011.

Are these people being racist or overly sensitive?

I think it’s a matter of how much detail they need to know. It seems haboobs are not new, so locals have dealt with them under the general term of sandstorm for decades, so it does seem a bit unnecessary. But if there were people listening that needed the specifics of the dust storm, then the objections term may have been appropriate. It’s about clear communication and if people are turning off, then there’s a real problem.  I think someone was just showing off their new word.

2 thoughts on “Haboob versus Sandstorm

  1. Thanks. Is this a new term or well established? I had a lot of problems with the post because my spellchecker kept converting the word to kabob.(variation of kebab?) It also had problems with slumlord, converting it to skumlord, which is more apt.


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