NSSL helps Phoenix power company brace for sand storms

An NSSL algorithm developed in collaboration with Arizona’s Salt River Project (SRP) alerts the power company of the potential for a dust storm called a haboob.  A haboob is a wall of dust that is pushed out along the ground from a thunderstorm downdraft at high speeds.

The Haboob Algorithm runs on NSSL’s Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor system at SRP, and automatically monitors the radar for thunderstorms reaching thresholds that could result in outflows producing strong surface winds and blowing dust.   When thresholds are reached, SRP operational personnel receive an alert to prepare for the impact of wind loading on SRP power poles and substations.

The SRP was alerted two hours in advance of the haboob that struck Phoenix, Ariz. on July 5.  This storm travelled at least 150 miles with wind gusts more than 60 mph and a leading edge almost 100 miles long.  An estimated 10,000 people lost power.

On Monday, July 18 the Haboob Algorithm gave the power company 45 minutes advance notice to prepare for the impact of the storm in Phoenix.

The Salt River Project has a reputation for innovative use of radar and weather information in their daily operations towards highly efficient electrical energy production and transmission.

SRP is two entities: the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, a political subdivision of the state of Arizona; and the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association, a private corporation.

The District provides electricity to about 920,000 retail customers in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area and the Association delivers nearly 1 million acre-feet of water annually to a service area in central Arizona.