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Chasing lightning: an interview with Kuwaiti stormchaser Sarah AlSayegh

Updated: Feb 6

Sarah Hasan AlSayegh is the September/October featured artist for the Stable Planet Alliance Earthlings Gallery. She is the first female Storm Chaser from Kuwait and a member of the collective Girls Who Chase, on a mission to "diversify the face of weather and science."

--Interview by Kathleen Sweeney

Supercell and Lightning, Texas, USA, May 2021

What is the most ineffable experience you’ve had as a storm chaser ?

It was actually three ineffable experiences. The first was the one that got me into storm chasing at the beginning, in March 2011, when I had my first encounter with a big haboob, a dust storm, a wall of dust clouds across the desert in Kuwait. Dust storms, we usually see them here every year, something we are used to. Over 365 days of the year, there are like 300 days of dust storms, so that’s normal to me, but that was the first time I photographed one.

The term ‘haboob’ is being used now more often in the States but it is an Arabian word. Usually in the States you see them when cold air produced by the clouds meets warm air to lift the dust from the ground. Here, in Kuwait, the haboob dust storms occur with a completely clear sky. Basically, the wall of dust approaches from the north towards the south. Seeing the wind just lift the dust and the dust rolls, it’s amazing.

Haboob (Dust Storm), Kuwait, April 2018

The next time was when I saw the tornado in McLean Texas in 2017. At that point, I had been coming to the States since 2015. Seeing a tornado for the first time was mind-blowing. I watched the cone producing this funnel cloud. It was just in front of me, not like on TV, something unforgettable, the birth of a tornado from a storm cell which then just ropes out, stretching and