- Associated Press - Friday, July 4, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Residents and officials cleaned up Friday and prepared for Fourth of July celebrations after the city’s first dust storm of the summer blasted Phoenix with strong winds, forcing the cancellation of some holiday plans, knocking out power to thousands of homes and grounding numerous flights.

The storm came through the Phoenix area Thursday night with a wall of dust that enveloped parts of the city and snarled traffic on area roadways because of poor visibility. It was the first of the yearly monsoon season storms.

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

Utility officials reported that roughly 25,000 customers lost electricity as the storm swept through, while flooding occurred on some streets.

All inbound and outbound flights at Sky Harbor International Airport were halted for about 45 minutes beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday, airport spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez said. Twenty-four planes had to be diverted to other airports, she said.

The National Weather Service predicted a 30 to 35 percent chance of rain for Friday and up to a 25 percent chance for Saturday and Sunday, leaving open the possibility of additional dust storms.

Arizona Public Service crews worked quickly to restore power to its customers.

“Our No. 1 concern for all of our customers is safety, so that’s the first thing that we’re having our crews do out there is to make all the areas where they see downed wires and poles safe for themselves and the people around the area,” APS spokesman Steven Godfried told KTVK-TV.

David Urbinato, spokesman for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, told the station the Light Up the Sky fireworks display at Maryvale Baseball Park was called off at about 9 p.m. Thursday because of the heavy rain and winds.

Meanwhile, investigators were probing whether lightning caused two large fires in an industrial area of west Phoenix where firefighters worked through the night to contain the blazes.

Officials were on the scene Friday but hadn’t yet determined the cause of the blazes, Phoenix fire Capt. Ruben Saavedra said. Some buildings in the area still smoldered Friday morning and several structures were destroyed.

“For the most part, they’re total losses,” Saavedra told The Arizona Republic. “We can’t send guys in there because the walls are unstable.”

There were no reports of injuries.

Phoenix police said Friday roads around the fire sites remained closed because of concerns there may have been hazardous materials inside some of the structures. The investigation remained ongoing.



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