Arizona Invokes the Power of Poetry to Promote Highway Safety

Y'all tweeters with an urge to wax poetic might like to know that the Arizona Department of Transportation has invited folks to submit haikus to call attention to the risk posed by summer storms known as haboobs -- fiendish gales that can turn day into night under a blanket of dust that reduces highway visibility to zero.

Says one Department spokesman, "The challenge... is really designed to raise awareness that this is a problem and that drivers shouldn't expect to sail through a dust storm."

Using the hashtag #haboobhaiku, writers have posted more than 100 entries so far, among them being: 'You're not a Jedi/This is not Tatooine, Luke/Pull over now, man."

Obviously anything called a haboob has to be pretty bad. Had Tolkien thought of such a name, he'd have based a trilogy on it. I, for one, can attest to how nasty a thing a haboob is.

About 15 years ago my sister and I decided to drive from Oklahoma City to San Diego when we were stuck flightless in the former and desperate to get home to the latter. I'm not at all unfond of Oklahoma City, having spent a good portion of my youth there, some of it with my cousins peering out from a storm cellar at cyclonic squalls on the horizon. Those were good times.

But in this particular instance, my sister and I both had pressing reasons to get back home and, long story short, we set out one late morning and traversed a good portion of Oklahoma, a slice of Texas and enough of New Mexico to find ourselves that same night checking into the worst motor lodge in Tucumcari. That's a story in its own right, but it'll have to keep.

The next day found us chewing up road like Grant took Richmond and about an hour into Arizona, tearing along at right near 100 miles per hour, one monster of a haboob decides to raise itself on high and scour the earth in hell sand.

The Arizona Department of Transportation would be pleased to know that I, a San Diegan to whom bad weather means wearing a shirt at the beach, pulled over and let the monster run its destructive course. I did not think to pen a haiku at the time, but if I had it would have gone something like this:

Oh Arizona!

Fierce haboob thou remind'st me
why I don't live here.

I think I'll go tweet that.