Terrifying footage has captured the moment a huge cloud of dust brought by 80mph gusts of wind blanketed Phoenix, Arizona, plunging tens of thousands into darkness.
Powerful thunderstorms swept through the metro on Thursday evening, with the cloud of dust bringing torrential rain, high winds and lightning in some areas.
The extreme weather marks an escalation of the monsoon season across much of the southwest after the region experienced a scorching summer under a “heat dome” that broke temperature records in many cities.
The epicenter of Thursday’s disaster was Maricopa County, the state’s most populous region, where thousands of people were hampered by power outages, grounded flights and travel chaos.
A massive cloud of dust blanketed much of Maricopa County in Phoenix, Arizona, Thursday night as the city was hit by severe weather.
Several small fires – including in a house and near a communications tower – were started by lightning across the city.
The dust cloud was brought in by a major storm system that developed south of the city, which swept the storm system into the city with strong gusts of wind, according to the FOX forecast center.
Visibility was reduced to less than a quarter mile in some areas as the National Weather Service introduced storm warnings that lasted until 9:45 p.m. Thursday as the city shut down.
Up to 86,000 people were left without power at various stages overnight, with the worst affected areas being Pinal, Yavapai and Maricopa counties, according to Poweroutage.US.
Inclement weather also frustrated sports fans as Arizona State’s football game was temporarily suspended with the home team leading 21-7 at halftime.
Fans were ordered to take cover as dust blanketed the stadium and lightning was detected overhead in the showdown with Southern Utah University as Arizona picked up a win 24-21 at 1 a.m. after the resumption.
The dust cloud was brought in by a major storm system that developed south of the city, which swept the storm system into the city during strong gusts of wind.
The weather front temporarily delayed the showdown between the University of Arizona and southern Utah.
Fans were ordered to seek shelter as the match was temporarily suspended due to inclement weather, which then resumed and ended at 1am.
Visibility was reduced to less than a quarter mile in some areas as travel chaos hit Sky Harbor and Mesa-Gateway airports with major delays.
The extreme weather front marks an escalation of the monsoon season in the southwest, and the wet and wild weather is expected to continue through Labor Day.
Although the dust cloud produced the most striking images of the weather front, much of the destruction was caused by thunderstorms and high winds.
Flights were temporarily grounded at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, and authorities urged travelers to check their flights were still running after a ground stop was introduced at runways overnight.
The travel chaos also extended to Phoenix Mesa-Gateway Airport as a ground stop order delayed flights by hours.
Several fires were started by lightning across the city, when a pine tree caught fire not far from where four people had been displaced when their home was set on fire by another fire.
Stunning footage showed firefighters rushing to the house and battling the blaze, and thankfully no injuries were reported at the scene.
In the southern mountain area of the city, which was first hit by storms as the weather front moved north, lightning sparked another fire at communications towers, according to A-Z family.
Much of Maricopa County was blanketed in the dust cloud, with the storms also causing outages across the county and nearby towns of Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Glendale and Avondale.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the fires which covered approximately half an acre, and no injuries to crew or damage to the towers were reported.
Wet and wild weather is expected to extend into the weekend, but temperatures are expected to rise as Labor Day is expected to be another sweltering day in the state.
Arizona has faced widespread outages for months due to extreme weather, with power outages also reported in cities including Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Glendale and Avondale.
The storms mark an escalation in an otherwise mild monsoon season for the southwest, which was instead scorched by an unprecedented “heat dome” that sent temperatures soaring.
Temperature records have been set in many West Coast and Southwest cities, including Phoenix, which has seen 30 straight days above 110F.
The return of the monsoon season hit California last month, however, as the first tropical storm to hit the state in 84 years caused widespread flooding.
In Phoenix, the extreme weather comes as Maricopa County recorded 47 additional heat-related deaths this week, bringing the total to at least 180, according to AZCentral.