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July 30, 2014

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Dust storm hits Phoenix, grounding flights

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AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Patrick Breen

A dust storm moves through Phoenix, Thursday, July 3, 2014.

PHOENIX — The first dust storm of the summer blasted Phoenix Thursday night with strong and blinding winds that forced the cancellation of holiday plans, knocked out power to thousands, and grounded numerous flights.

All inbound and outbound traffic at Sky Harbor International Airport was halted after 8 p.m. PDT as a result of the storm, airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said.

Operations had resumed by 8:45 p.m., but not before 24 planes had been diverted to other airports, she said.

Meteorologist Charlotte Dewey of the National Weather Service told the Arizona Republic that the storm swept into the Phoenix area about 7:30 p.m.

The wall of dust that enveloped parts of the city also snarled traffic as drivers slowed down because of poor visibility.

The storm was the first of the yearly monsoon season and brought with it localized heavy rains.

Powerful winds, sometimes gusting to 50 mph, knocked down numerous trees and power lines.

Station KPHO said utilities reported that power was cut off to more than 25,000 customers.

The storm also derailed, at least temporarily, public and private plans. The station said that among them was the cancellation of the "Red, White and Boom" Fourth of July fireworks show in southeast Phoenix.

A dust storm warning for the Phoenix area is in effect until 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, officials said firefighters battled blazes in at least two buildings in west Phoenix. Local media reported that lightning was suspected of sparking the fires, which were fueled by the strong winds.

The Weather Service predicted a 30 to 35 percent chance of rain for Friday.

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