Now, we have a new reason to compare the Great Recession to the Great Depression: Steinbeck-style dust storms. Tuesday evening, a massive cloud of darkness known as a "habub" overtook Phoenix. The National Weather Service reports that the wall of dust towered 8,000 to 10,000 feet high before it hit the Phoenix valley, and local meteorologists estimated the storm to be about 50 miles wide when it struck the city.

Environmentalists remind us that the conditions that create dust storms can be linked to climate change and poor farming practices. Today, the Earth is twice as dusty as it was in the 19th-century. At least we have YouTube and Twitpic to document the incredibly terrifying consequences?

The Phoenix Haboob of July 5th, 2011 from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

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Phoenix residents woke up with a fine layer of dust coating everything. Literary types will remind us that John Steinbeck wrote about this in the chapter of The Grapes of Wrath:

Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes.

Here's what dust storms looked like back then. From Texas in 1935: