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Deadly Dust Storm

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"Swallowed by a sandstorm" takes on new meaning.

"On the 14th day of April of 1935,
There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky.
You could see that dust storm comin', the cloud looked deathlike black,
And through our mighty nation, it left a dreadful track."
Woody Guthrie, "The Great Dust Storm", Dust Bowl Ballads

A lot of dust or sand being kicked up by the wind. Not such a big deal, right? Wrong. These can cause significant problems for the area they hit. Visibility can be reduced to nearly nothing, the winds can cause significant damage, and it will get everywhere. In contrast to the usual storm, which though it can cause damage also brings needed rain, dust storms are rarely if ever shown to be positive. If anything, they are often used as a sign of tough times, or part of a Crapsack World.

Dust storms are often shown as hardships that farmers have to deal with or as an indication of a drought, since rain tends to pack loose soil down so it doesn't get blown about so much. Dust is finer than sand and so while it doesn't hurt quite as much to be buffeted by it (though it's still painful), it tends to get into more places, leading to an Extremely Dusty Home, and can linger in the air after the winds have settled. Those with asthma or other respiratory ailments should take care during one of these.

Sand storms are often associated with the Sahara, the Arabian Peninsula and settings inspired by them. If you are Crossing the Desert or traveling through Shifting Sand Land, chances are that you will be hit with one of these at one point, especially if it is a Thirsty Desert. Sand traveling at high speed is also painful, the hot winds also making dehydration even worse.

A subtrope of Hostile Weather. May be part of A Storm Is Coming. Not to be confused with Swirling Dust, which is when a Battle Aura stirs it up. Very much Truth in Television, as real life dust/sand storms are in fact very dangerous.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon: Nobita's Dorabian Nights had Doraemon and friends, searching for the kidnapped Shizuka in the Arabic Desert, being caught in an unexpected sandstorm. Doraemon managed to use his turban - actually a gadget which can form a protective cocoon - to shield everyone from harm. Meanwhile, Shizuka, who's in an oasis with her kidnapper, momentarily fled under the cover of the storm, but gets quickly recaptured because she's on foot while her abductor has a camel.
  • In Hoshin Engi Yozen uses his transformation powers to copy the sand manipulation of a previous foe and summons a giant dust storm to counter Kinko Seibo's own light-based paope. Plus, his ally Nataku can use the storm to close in on Kinko Seibo and deliver a deadly attack.
  • In One Piece, Sir Crocodile's powers include the ability to conjure gigantic sandstorms shaped like tornadoes at a moment's notice. He most notably uses one near the end of his battle against Luffy to set in motion a giant storm that would hit an oasis where Luffy and co rested and later, during the battle in Alubarna, he makes use of a sandstorm to throw the battle into chaos and make sure that the Royal Army and the Rebels massacres each other.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin: In The Crab with the Golden Claws, Tintin and the Thompsons get caught in one. They nearly miss each other, until the Thompsons turn back. They had after realized that mirages don't speak, so their cry for help was a very real one.
  • X-Men: Sooraya Qadir's power essentially allows her to BE this trope.
  • At the conclusion of the Hellfire Gala the omega mutants put on a show for all the guests of terraforming Mars. Come Way of X it's shown that they didn't put much thought into any potential consequences, as the tidal forces of Mars' moons kick up razing dust storms that sweep the landscape. The aforementioned Dust ironically has to use her powers to keep these storms at bay, particularly for any alien visitors because the proud warrior residents now living on it don't mind a deadly hazard.

    Fan Works 
  • The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan: Nova Shine, when crossing the San Palomino Desert on hoof, ends up swallowed up by one of these. He conjures a magic shield to protect him, but after having made the journey alone and being several days into it, he is utterly exhausted and the sheer beating of wind and sand his shield takes overwhelms him within seconds. He is then saved from certain death by King Sombra.
  • Prehistoric Park Reimagined: A rather vicious sandstorm comes down upon the rescue team not too long after their first rescue in the mission in which they travel to rescue estemmenosuchus. And while the majority of the team had managed to notice it approaching in time to hurriedly set up a shelter and get inside in time to avoid getting directly caught in said storm, rescue team leader Drew and his Sixth Ranger ex girlfriend Cynthia very briefly find themselves forced to stagger their way blindly through to try to find the shelter with the latter managing to be stuck out in the storm just slightly longer than Drew.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Prince of Egypt: After Moses leaves Egypt he wanders around the desert until he's engulfed in a sandstorm that leaves him nearly buried.
  • WALL•E: Earth is prone to large dust storms, causing Wall-E to have to take shelter in his storage trailer whenever one blows up.
  • Zootopia: The Sahara Square obstacle course during Judy's police academy training simulates a sandstorm.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bound for Glory: This loosely biographical film about Woody Guthrie starts out during the Dust Bowl, where dusts storms were a very real hazard. At one point he's shown consoling a woman whose daughter died of dust pneumonia.
  • The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and The Flight of the Phoenix (2004): Both versions of the film have the plane crashing after flying into a dust storm in the middle of the desert.
  • Ghost Town (1988): When Kate is abducted by Devlin and his gang, they are accompanied a blinding dust storm. The storm is so severe that when the police find Kate's car, it has had all of the paint scoured from it.
  • Hidalgo: A storm of this type is one of the many obstacles faced by the contestants in the "Ocean of Fire," a long-distance horse race across the Arabian peninsula.
  • Interstellar: One of the effects of the crop-killing blights is that frequent dust storms plague the remaining population of Earth. They get so bad that people have to wear breath masks and goggles when one comes up, and lung disease is common.
  • In The Jewel of the Nile, the group encounters a sandstorm as they escape from the city. Luckily, they're driving an F-16 with its wings clipped and they make it through using the afterburner. (Although Jack says "It'll save us or kill us.")
  • This is just one of several obstacles faced by the heroes of Kangaroo Jack.
  • One features in Mad Max: Fury Road, which is set in the postapocalyptic desert. It's gigantic, complete with lightning strikes inside it just to hammer in how deadly it is.
  • In Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, Shirin's village was buried beneath an unprecedented sandstorm which may have been the result of a curse. A second one threatens to engulf the village again while Phryne and company are attempting to return the emerald to the crypt.
  • Mission: Impossible film series:
  • The Mummy (1999): One of Imhotep's powers is the creation of large sand storms, sometimes even turning into one. He lets one loose against the plane Rick is using to try and follow him, eventually bringing it down.
    • The 2017 version has a particularly nasty one unleashed on London by Princess Ahmanet, who uses her powers to smash every piece of glass in the city center into powder - that is, sand - and send it tearing through the streets.
  • The Plow That Broke the Plains is a 1936 documentary short that recounts the history of the Great Plains and how over-farming led to the Dust Bowl. The latter portion of the film in which the dust storms wipe out everything is quite harrowing.
  • Prince of Persia: The threatened world-ending apocalypse takes the form of a giant sandstorm to be sent by the gods. During the film, Dastan and Tamina take shelter from a smaller but still nasty sandstorm (they even bring their horse into the shelter with them) while Tamina tells Dastan about the history of the dagger.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark. According to Dr. Marcus Brody, an Egyptian pharaoh took the Ark of the Covenant to the city of Tanis. A year later, Tanis was destroyed by a sand storm that lasted an entire year - "Wiped clean by the wrath of God."
  • Stargate: As the team is spending their first night on Abydos, a large sand storm comes up, forcing those not at the native village to take shelter in the pyramid where the stargate is. And then Ra shows up.
  • Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace: Tatooine is prone to them, and when one blows up, Anakin offers Qui-Gon's party shelter in his house where they take the time to plan their next step.

  • One ending of The Race Forever involves you getting stuck in the sand, then you and your teammate have to get back in your vehicle to escape a sandstorm. The vehicle gets buried and you two are never seen again.
  • Temple of Terror has a sandstorm as one of the many hazards encountered in the Desert of Skulls. You'll inevitably lose some SKILL points with the storm damaging your eyesight, though you might find some unearth artifacts in the storm.

  • Discworld: the deserts of Klatch have these, to the point where all you need to do to sharpen a sword is hold it in the air for a little.
  • Dragon magazine #51, story "A Part of the Game". The story begins with a sandstorm that lasts an entire day and most of the night, forcing a caravan to stop to avoid becoming lost. With the dawn the entire face of the desert has changed, causing them to become lost anyway.
  • Dune: Arrakis, as a desert world, has these as one of its hazards which can have winds of over 400 kph. Deflector Shields are useless in them and when Paul and Jessica escape the Harkonnen massacre into one, everyone assumes they're dead simply because the storms are that dangerous.
  • In The Enduring Flame Trilogy, an extremely powerful rogue desert Wildmage who thinks all other Wildmages are traitors wipes out the Wildmage army coming to stop him by conjuring a huge sandstorm.
  • Honor Harrington: The planet of Grayson has some seriously fearsome dust-storms... not because it's particularly dry, or particularly windy, but because the local environment has lethal levels of several very nasty heavy metals, making it suicide to go outside on windy days without a filter-mask or better. People who grow up there but later left for other planets have been shown to reflexively reach for their (no-longer present) breather-mask whenever they see dust getting kicked up by the wind.
  • The Martian has two major dust storms. The first one is the reason Mark is stranded on Mars in the first place. The second one wouldn't have been so bad, if he hadn't been in the middle of his cross-Mars trek and dependent on power from solar panels to keep going.
  • Red Mars Trilogy: The terraforming efforts on Mars at one point lead to a huge dust storm that lasts for years.
  • In the L.A. Graf Star Trek novel Rough Trails, due to a collision with an unstable moon, one of the continents of Belle Terre has dangerous dust storms that are radioactive, impenetrable to sensors, and can damage shuttles badly enough to bring them down. The region's infrastructure is too destroyed to deal with them, leaving the colonists to deal with them with scarves and respirators. Chekov, naturally, gets caught out in one and nearly dies (and the Red Shirts he's with fare worse).
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Tales of the Bounty Hunters: Toward the end of Dengar's story, Jabba has him taken out to experience the "Teeth of Tatooine". He is strapped down in a canyon where as the air changes temperature going from day to night it begins rushing through the canyon carrying dust, sand, and bits of rock which pelt him and begin chewing him up.
  • In the Mark Twain book Tom Sawyer Abroad Tom and Huck are flying over the Sahara Desert in a balloon and see evidence of a past dust storm, namely the dessicated bodies of a small tribe who had all died buried in a sand storm.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. The so-called 'cotton candy plant' (initially assumed to be harmless) creates huge duststorms that knock helicopters out of the sky, explode like grain silos, cause thousands of deaths by clogging up people's lungs, and fuel the next stage in Hostile Terraforming by providing food for Chtorran lifeforms while smothering Earth plants and animals.
  • Winnetou: In The Spirit of Llano Estacado one of these hits the part of the desert where Old Shatterhand was supposed to be. Winnetou, in a different location, sees the storm from afar and worries darkly about his friend.
  • In Traitor Queen while crossing the Red Desert, Lara and her husband barely survive one, only because they stumble upon the complex where Lara grew up. Their pursuers are not so lucky.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "54722 Hours": The blue-lit planet Jemma gets trapped on is prone to them. Understandable, since it's a barren wasteland of dusty rock formations. They're actually a manifestation of some kind of malevolent intelligence.
  • Centennial: Circa 1935, the older son of a poor family drove the local bus (school bus?) in a dust storm, got stuck and suffocated.
  • The Discovery Channel documentary Planet Storm showed what might happen if a sandstorm equivalent to the ones on Mars (see real life) happened on Earth. The result is a tsunami of dust 5 miles high, travelling well over 100 miles per hour and sandblasting everything in its path. This would eventually grow large enough to envelope the entire planet.
  • RFDS (2021): A weather front kicks up a dust storm in episode 4, which forces Mira to get her and Pete's air ambulance to the ground instruments-only with a patient on board. Wayne is caught in the storm on the ground, too, and has to go out in it to get a patient's medicine from the back of the ute they're hiding in.
  • Walking with Monsters: The third episode begins in the deserts of Pangaea shortly before the Permian--Triassic extinction event, which wiped out around 90% of life on Earth at the time. The gradual mass-extinction is foreshadowed by a massive sandstorm that happens about halfway through the episode. Some small-but-hardy Diictodon sit it out in their burrows, while a starving Gorgonopsid—the top predator of the age—is caught in the sandstorm and dies.

  • Dust Bowl Ballads is a Woody Guthrie album which has songs inspired by his experiences during the Dust Bowl. Dust storms and the hardships they bring are a central feature of most of the songs.

  • In The Magnus Archives one statement is from Robert E. Geiger concerning his experience getting caught in the deadly Black Sunday storm near Boise. He and his companion were trying to drive a farmer suffering from dust pneumonia to a hospital when they get stranded in their car during the storm. Then the farmer dies. And after that, the farmer starts talking. It goes downhill from there.
  • Welcome to Night Vale: One episode deals with a sandstorm descending on Night Vale (and Desert Bluffs) which, in addition to causing considerable damage to the town, seems to create duplicates of all the inhabitants.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons, modules I3-I5 (Desert of Desolation series). One possible random encounter while in the desert is a dust storm. There's an 80% chance of the PCs getting lost unless they immediately halt, and movement rate is cut in half if they continue. The storm lasts 3-22 turns (30 minutes to 3 hours 40 minutes).
    • The 3.5E sourcebook for desert adventures, "Sandstorm", is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It contains rules for natural dust storms ranging in severity from "duststorm" to "flensing sandstorm", plus supernatural hazards like necrotic flaywinds (storms of black sand that strip the flesh from a creature's bones and then animate the skeleton as undead), and plenty of spells to conjure such effects.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has a mission where you must use your jet to find and destroy oil trucks during a sandstorm. You can only see a few feet in front of you and the radar tracking the trucks keeps flicking on and off. Combine this with a first playthrough, and the mission quickly becomes hell.
  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze has level 3-3, "Frantic Fields". It takes place in a savannah hit by a huge dust storm that evolves into a tornado. There are dust devils that will launch the Kongs away at very high speeds, the wind grows strong enough to blow Snomads and even a full-grown Cape buffalo around (and the Kongs eventually, to the point where you can only move forward by rolling or sprinting against the wind) and lightning begins raining down, dealing damage and destroying platforms.
  • The opening mission for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has Adam's Interpol team racing against the clock to complete a mission before a sandstorm hits their position.
  • Sand King in Dota 2 can create a sand storm that sets himself invisible and damaging anyone that comes within the storm. The storm persists as long as Sand King stays in place, which can be very long.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind plays with it. There are dust storms in areas set close to the island's volcano which, according to NPCs and in-game texts, spread the Blight disease to people and animals caught in them, as well as kill off vegetation. They were originally planned to give the player the Blight disease as well if he was caught in them without proper protection. However, in a combination of Gameplay and Story Segregation and Dummied Out, this feature is not present in the final release. The storms still do limit your range of view and movement speed, however.
  • Fate/Grand Order: The first obstacle the party runs into when they arrive in Camelot. It cuts off contact with Dr. Roman and impedes their progress. It's a nuisance even outside of the story since the animation for the sandstorm lags the game and can cause the game to crash.
  • Mad Max (2015): Sandstorms will occasionally kick up, turning the visibility down to near zero. You must find some form of shelter or stay in the car, lest you get hit with a large chunk of scrap flying at you. Though if your armor is weak this won't do you any good. Worse, there are sandstorms with lightning storms within them. However, Sandstorms can also yield Motherloot containers, which can give you a ridiculous amount of scrap provided that you survive.
  • Mass Effect 3: As Shepard's party lands on Mars to investigate the Prothean archives, a large dust storm is bearing down on them. Fortunately, most of the mission is inside, but there are a couple of parts where they have to step out into it.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: The Spirit Temple is beyond a stretch of desert that has a constant sand storm. Link needs the help of the Phantom Guide to lead him through safely.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Sandstorm move causes damage every turn as long as it lasts to all Pokemon that aren't Rock, Ground or Steel-type. This is whipped up automatically by Pokemon with the Sand Stream ability. It doesn't affect all Pokemon not of the three aforementioned types either; those with Sand Veil, Sand Rush or Sand Force as their ability are immune. Most Pokémon with these Abilities are already immune to the weather due to typing; the exceptions are Cacnea and Helioptile lines, as well as Shellos, Herdier and Stoutland.
    • In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, one of the areas is in a perpetual sandstorm. You can't even enter it without special goggles to avoid being blinded yourself, or your character will double back.
  • Spec Ops: The Line is set in Dubai, which has been devastated and isolated by an almost unearthly sandstorm lasting six whole months. As things go From Bad to Worse in the plot, the sand starts blowing again, making everything even more challenging. It even appears as a geo effect sometimes, bringing visibility down to "Silent Hill fog" and accuracy to near zero, and preventing Captain Walker from issuing voice commands to his squadmates. One piece of intel sums it up nicely:
    Radioman: It's wrong to call it a storm. I've never seen a storm that could blast paint off a car. This is sand, flying through the air at 80 miles an hour. It will shatter glass, tear your flesh, and fill your lungs.
  • Terraria: The 1.3.3 update adds sandstorms as an event that may randomly happen on a desert biome. While it lasts, a strong wind pushes the player, and special enemies appear (such as sand sharks and sand elementals).
  • World of Warcraft: When weather was added, desert regions were given sandstorms, which look impressive but are really just cosmetic features that don't actually do anything. In Uldum, however, the town of Orsis is being buried by sandstorms called up by the djinn Siamat.
  • Golden Sun: The Suhalla desert is uncrossable due to massive sandstorms kicked up by giant lizard monsters. Your party (and the enemies you're chasing) can get past them by getting caught in the tornado and casting Douse, which forces the lizard to fight. The Muggle Non Player Characters, however, have to bring big barrels of water with them, in addition to being entirely unsuited for fighting giant monsters.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has sandstorms roll in at irregular intervals in northern Kabul, Afghanistan. The sandstorms cut down visibility sharply for everyone (Grade 4 or above NVG negates it completely though, fortunately) but makes it a lot harder for the Soviets to hear Venom Snake sneaking up on them. The Support Unit can also cause sandstorms (even in Africa!) for 33,000 GMP and last a lot lot longer than normal sandstorms, aiding stealth operations tremendously, though it negates S-ranking for main missions however.
  • Assassin's Creed Origins with its open world mechanic set in Ancient Egypt features dust storms that randomly occur while the player is out in the desert. While it causes no damage to the player, it does significantly reduce visibility (which can help or hurt, as enemies can't see you very well either).

    Web Animation 
  • In Shrapnel, the Endless Daytime half of the planet is covered with a constant dust storm that residents just refer to as the dust. It’s too heavy to see where the sun is, but generally light enough to let a decent amount of sunlight through.

    Western Animation 
  • Darkwing Duck: "Water Way to Go" has Steelbeak in Oil-rabia with a Weather-Control Machine which he uses to unleash a large sandstorm on our heroes, leaving everyone to think they were killed. It doesn't, but it does leave them stranded in the desert.
  • Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius Episode 19 Beach Party Mummy had the main group travel to Egypt to find a lost mummy tomb. Along the way, they encounter a sandstorm which they not only survive, but coincidentally find their intended location almost immediately.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Legacy of Terror" begins with Luminara Unduli, accompanied by a clone trooper, searching for Poggle the Lesser in a sandstorm on Geonosis. When they run into trouble, help can't arrive for hours due to the sandstorm causing the gunships to be grounded and interfering with communications.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • "Relics of the Old Republic": The clones' walker heads into a storm bearing down on them since it'll make all their scanners, and the Imps' as well, useless. The clones have the advantage since they have Kanan and Ezra, who don't need scanners to find the AT-ATs.
    • "Ghosts of Geonosis": The Ghost lands in a sandstorm, which ends up clogging the ship's cannons and causing difficulties during a later firefight with Imperial forces.
    • "Twin Suns": Ezra and Chopper get caught in a sandstorm while on Tatooine.

    Real Life 
  • The Dust Bowl was a series of droughts combined with inadequate farming practices that lead to a period of huge dust storms across the North American prairies. One "black blizzard" reached all the way to Washington D.C.
  • One of the concerns for any colonization effort on Mars is the planet's tendency to have truly enormous dust storms, some of which can engulf the entire planet for months at a time. Unlike what is depicted in The Martian, however, the dust storms themselves are not deadly: Mars doesn't have enough of an atmosphere to let even a high speed dust storm cause any significant damage. The danger of a dust storm on Mars is that the best (read: lightest and cheapest) way to generate power on Mars is through solar energy, and dust storms rapidly degrade solar panel efficiency to the point of uselessness.