On top of droughts and wildfires, Arizona is faced with yet another severe weather phenomenon as July begins.

A giant dust storm plowed over parts of Arizona Tuesday night, stretching more than 50 miles wide and generating sustained winds that nearly reached hurricane strength. Such dust storms, also known as "haboobs," typically occur over desert areas and can cause significant damage, even without the barrage of moisture that fuels traditional storms. Tuesday's dust cloud led to widespread power outages and flight delays throughout the Phoenix area, MSNBC reports.

The storm began Tuesday afternoon in the Tucson area before moving north across the desert, National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Iniguez tells MSNBC. Radar data showed its wall of dust was towering up to 10,000 feet high — almost 2 miles above the ground — before it neared Phoenix, where the cloud fell to about 1 mile tall. "This was pretty significant," Iniguez says. "We heard from a lot of people who lived here for a number of storms and this was the worst they'd seen." The fire department in Phoenix received 720 emergency calls during the dust storm, according to MSNBC, and fire crews responded to more than 320 incidents during that period. Winds knocked down live wires in Tempe that sparked a fire, and flights at the state's busiest airport were grounded for nearly an hour, but no major injuries were reported in connection with the dust storm.

Arizona has been battling drought and wildfires for months, and while the dust storm may seem like one more in a string of dry disasters, it was reportedly part of the fledgling Arizona monsoon season, which typically begins in mid-June. More than a dozen Arizona communities were also placed under a severe thunderstorm watch Tuesday during the dust storm, and with monsoon season set to last through September, at least some parts of the state may get some much-needed moisture in the coming weeks.

(Sources: CNN, MSNBC)

This article appeared in today's Daily Briefing.

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.