Storm cleanup under way in metro Phoenix, Pinal County

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by Associated Press and Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on August 18, 2011 at 5:53 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 27 at 3:35 AM

PHOENIX (AP) -- A dust storm that moved through central Arizona temporarily shut down air traffic at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Thursday night; hundreds of people were still without electricity Friday morning.

Officials said planes were not allowed to land or take off until the weather improved. The closure lasted about 20 minutes. Air traffic has since returned to normal; no delays were being reported Friday morning, some 12 hours after the fast-moving storm rolled through.

The massive wall of dust blew through the Phoenix area about 6 p.m. Thursday, dramatically reducing visibility and enveloping residents in an eerie rust-colored glow. In some parts of the Valley, visibility was cut down to less than 1/4 of a mile.

The wall of dust was about 1,000 feet high and traveled about 50 miles before the storm blew itself out.

Before smacking Phoenix, the storm rolled through Eloy, Casa Grande, San Tan Valley and Queen Creek. The National Weather Service confirmed mircobursts in San Tan Valley and Peoria/Sun City. There is massive damage in Eloy, but the NWS has not yet confirmed if a mircoburst is to blame.

In Sun City, a wind gust resulting from a microburst was clocked at 71 mph. In San Tan Valley, gusts were estimated at 55 to 65 mph.

It's the fourth major dust storm that has hit the Phoenix metropolitan area since July 5. That's double the amount that we typically see.

Unlike some of the previous storms, this one did bring some rain to the Valley. Sun City got about 0.86 inch of rain. Cave Creek saw 0.75 inch. Those numbers dropped significantly closer to Phoenix. Scottsdale, for example, saw a total of 0.28 inch of rain.

Some residents said this storm felt like the strongest one so far this monsoon.

"It was more like a tornado," said Janet Lynn Schultz whose home was damaged. "All of the patio was upside down and things were just flying."

Salt River Project officials said an estimated 3,500 customers were without electricity late Thursday afternoon. Most of the power outages were in the Queen Creek area southeast of Phoenix.

SRP said most of those people are back up and running.

Some 1,600 APS customers in Eloy were not as lucky. They were still without power Friday morning after the storms damaged between 25 and 30 power poles there. APS was working to bring those customers back on line and expected to have power to everybody by Friday afternoon.

Officials in Pinal County said high winds downed power lines south of the town of Arizona City and west of Interstate 10.

After Thursday's record-setting 112 degrees, Friday looks to be a partly sunny day in the Valley with a high of just 105 degrees and a slight chance of more rain in the evening hours.

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