10 years later, Phoenix storm chaser remembers haboob time lapse that changed his life

Exactly ten years ago, on July 5, 2011, one of the biggest dust storms in Phoenix history, measuring about a mile high and stretching about 100 miles, consumed the city.

That historic haboob was captured on a time lapse video by a Valley stormchaser. On July 5, 2021, Mike Olbinski reflects on how the stunning video changed his life.

Haboob time lapse was shot from parking garage

"I'm literally not believing that I'm seeing this here in Phoenix. This is something you see in the Sahara Deserts," Olbinski said.

On that fateful day in 2011, Olbinski, after getting word of the dust storm, set up a camera on the roof of a parking garage and shot a time lapse of the haboob.

"It was really insane to me, and I love it," said Olbinski. "I wanted to see a dust storm on time lapse to see what it looked like. I wanted to see how it rolls and interacts with the clouds above it."

Olbinski says it felt ominous as he sat in his car in the middle of the dust storm. It took about 30 minutes for it to pass.

"Once it hit, I could barely see the light in front of me 10 feet away, and the whole freeway below was gone. It was nighttime immediately. It was howling wind and thick dust battering the car," Olbinski remembers.

For Olbinski, it was a time lapse that changed his life

The dust wall reached to the sky, and top was reaching the clouds. Olbinski had only done a few time lapse videos before this, but the haboob video immediately went viral worldwide, and catapulted him onto a new career path.

"I've been doing my passion for almost the last 10 years now," said Olbinski. "I never would have thought that all my footage and stuff that I shot for years now gets licensed and used all the time. From Pearl Jam, Blake Shelton, to movies and commercials, and I just can't believe where it's taken me."

So far in the last 10 years, Phoenix has not seen a dust storm that massive push through.

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