Dust storm in Arizona

All photos: Andrew Pielage

Andrew Pielage thought it was a prank when he received an automated dust storm alert on his phone on March 25.

"A dust storm in March? No way!" the Arizona-based photographer told MNN. "Arizona does not usually see these type of storms until late June at the earliest."

Also known by the Arabic word "haboob," the unusually early dust storm forced cars to pull over on the highway before coating the city in a thick layer of dust. While everyone else hunkered down, Pielage gathered his gear, hopped in his truck and rushed to higher ground to get the perfect shot. Stretching across the horizon for miles and miles, the storm is one of the longest the area has seen in the past few years.

Pielage isn't sure what an early dust storm means for the rest of the season, but recent news reports have connected the storms to an influx of Valley Fever, a serious fungal lung infection that can be fatal if not treated early.

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Dust storm in Arizona
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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.