A massive dust storm engulfed Tehran late Monday afternoon, killing at least four people and creating an apocalyptic scene in the Iranian capital. Winds reached 70 mph, sent people scrambling for cover and knocked out power for nearly 50,000 homes, Yahoo.com reports.
“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, Tehran bureau chief for the New York Times.
Fars News Agency, an independent news organization in Iran, called the event "unexpected and rather unprecedented."
The official observation at Mehrabad International Airport in Tehran showed a severe thunderstorm with wind gusts up to 69 mph at 5:30 p.m. local time (9 a.m. U.S. EDT), said Nick Wiltgen, meteorologist for weather.com. The temperature plunged from 91º to 66º as the storm blew through.
State television said the storm killed five people, while Iran's official IRNA news agency said it killed four people, according to the Associated Press. About 50,000 homes and businesses were without power.
The storm broke trees and plunged the capital into darkness for several minutes. State TV said the storm caused a chain-reaction crash of 20 vehicles south of the capital and canceled some international flights.
Dust storms, or haboobs (Arabic for "blasting/drafting"), occur regularly in hot and dry regions of the world. They form when air is forced down and pushed forward by the front of a traveling thunderstorm cell and drags with it dust and debris. Winds of speeds up to 60 mph can stir up dust and sand and create a blowing wall as high as 10,000 feet. Haboobs usually last only 10 to 30 minutes, but on rare occasions can last longer and create hazardous travel conditions.
People make their way on a sidewalk of Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 2, 2014, while a flash dust storm hits the Iranian capital. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)