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Rare haboob of blowing dust leads to blackout conditions in parts of Nebraska

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A large wall of dust, known as a haboob, swept over parts of Nebraska Thursday afternoon, creating near-zero visibility on state highways.

A haboob occurs when dust is kicked up shortly before a thunderstorm moves in. A downdraft of cold air reaches the ground and kicks up dust, creating a dust wall that moves quickly and turns the sky pitch-black, according to Jordan Thies, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hastings.

"If conditions are dry enough and winds are strong enough, it can make for a pretty ominous sight," Thies said. 

Wind gusts of 89 mph were recorded in Ord. In other parts of the state, 60 to 70 mph winds carried the haboob forward. 

Western Nebraska — which is in the grip of severe drought — was most impacted by the dust storm. Parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota were also clouded in dust as severe thunderstorms rolled through the region.

"Conditions were primed for blowing dust in Western Nebraska," Thies said. "Severe drought can definitely lead to an uptick in this kind of weather."

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