Photo: A dust storm over Phoenix is captured by an airline passenger - Instagram's mwtsang

#Haboob Hits Phoenix Metro Area

The first of what could be a busy weekend of thunderstorms and showers began impacting the Phoenix area Friday afternoon.

The National Weather Service issued dust and severe thunderstorm warnings for parts of the Phoenix area that have since expired. The storms brought strong winds and pockets of heavy rain.

Arizona Public Service Co. reported more than over 3,700 households without power. Salt River Project reported two smaller outages.

Though there hasn’t been widespread heavy rain so far, there have been pockets of significant rainfall.

The Phoenix Fire Department reported two fire incidents caused by lightning Friday afternoon in the area of 85th Avenue and McDowell Road.

Lightning strikes apartments, motel

Lightning struck the roof of a two-story apartment complex at 8550 W. McDowell Road, and 911 callers could see flames on the roof, fire officials said. The small fire was extinguished quickly.

Lightning also struck right across the street at the Sleep and Go Inn, according to fire officials. There was damage to the roof due to the lightning strike, but no evidence of fire.

No injuries were reported at either incident.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is reporting State Route 238 is closed in both directions from Gila Bend to about 5 miles west of Maricopa due to flooding.

A Maricopa County Flood Control District rain gauge at Gila Bend reported  0.20 inches of rain as of 3:30 p.m.

State Fair affected

The storms affected the first day of the Arizona State Fair in Phoenix. Some rides had to be shut down Friday afternoon while the stronger winds were in the area, according to fair officials.

Though the storm warnings have expired, other storms could develop with strong winds and locally heavy rain. The Weather Service forecasts a 70 percent chance of rain through Friday evening, with between a quarter- and a half-inch of rain possible (amounts could be higher within some thunderstorms).

Rain chances continue Saturday. The forecast calls for cloudy skies in the morning becoming partly cloudy by afternoon. High temperatures should be between 85 and 90 degrees with a 30 percent chance of rain.

The Special Olympics Fall Games opening ceremony on Friday at the Peoria Sports Complex was canceled on Friday due to the weather, according to the organizers.

Outdoor activities in wind, storms

Those folks looking to get outside and enjoy the fall weather should be cautious and mindful of the forecast.

Gregg Bach, spokesman for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, said he doesn’t recommend going out in extreme weather conditions. However, if hikers decide to, they should make sure they are prepared.

The department released a “Take a Hike. Do it Right.” graphic, which offers advice such as dressing appropriately, teaming up and carrying a mobile phone. When there are thunderstorms and rain, Bach recommends always checking the weather before going on a hike.

“There’s a reason those warnings are in place and sent out by the Weather Service,” Bach said. “If people go out, they should be aware of what they encounter. … That’s why all those various warnings are out there – so they can make an informed decision.”

Bach said he does not expect any trails to close as a result of this weekend’s storms.

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