Haboob Dust Storms and Motor Vehicle Collision-related Trauma in Phoenix, Arizona

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The western journal of emergency medicine








BACKGROUND: The Sonoran Desert region, encompassing most of southern Arizona, has an extreme climate that is famous for dust storms known as haboobs. These storms lead to decreased visibility and potentially hazardous driving conditions. In this study we evaluate the relationship between haboob events and emergency department (ED) visits due to motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) in Phoenix, Arizona. METHODS: This study is a retrospective analysis of MVC-related trauma presentations to Phoenix, AZ, hospitals before and following haboob dust storms. These events were identified from 2009-2017 primarily using Phoenix International Airport weather data. De-identified trauma data were obtained from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Arizona State Trauma Registry (ASTR) from seven trauma centers within a 10-mile radius of the airport. We compared MVC-related trauma using six- and 24-hour windows before and following the onset of haboob events. RESULTS: There were 31,133 MVC-related trauma encounters included from 2009-2017 and 111 haboob events meeting meteorological criteria during that period. There was a 17% decrease in MVC-related ED encounters in the six hours following haboob onset compared to before onset (235 vs 283, P = 0.04), with proportionally more injuries among males (P < 0.001) and higher mortality (P = 0.02). There was no difference in frequency of presentations (P = 0.82), demographics, or outcomes among the 24-hour pre-and post-haboob groups. CONCLUSION: Haboob dust storms in Phoenix, Arizona, are associated with a decrease in MVC-related injuries during the six-hour period following storm onset, likely indicating the success of public safety messaging efforts. Males made up a higher proportion of those injured during the storms, suggesting a target for future interventions. Future public-targeted weather-safety initiatives should be accompanied more closely by monitoring and evaluation efforts to assess for effectiveness.


Emergency Medicine