The first time I was in a dust storm that blocked out the sun, I felt like it was an apocalypse. I was driving down one of the busier streets in our town, talking to my mom through my headset, and noticed it was starting to get darker… and darker… and darker… until it seemed like night in the middle of the day. But unlike the blue-black sky of night, it was a murky, dirty brown sky. Dirt pellets and small rocks hit my car; actual tumbleweeds blew across the streets, victimizing whomever or whatever happened to be in its path.
I remember saying, “Uh, the sun is completely blocked out of the sky.” And my mom asking, what on earth do I mean, an unfathomable experience for East Coasters, who only know high winds to be part of hurricanes.
But today is one such day where the typical bright beautiful blue New Mexican sky turns an awful shade of newspaper pulp. Here’s how it happens: first it starts out a little breezy in the morning, then picks up by midday. By 1pm, I have to make my first round of pick up items at risk of blowing away — a seat cushion out of the pool, a pool float pressing up against the side of the wall separating our backyard from our neighbors… I start to see items swirling around our yard, not ours, but new visitors such as plastic, paper, or pieces of garbage, dancing in the air — and I hope they will move on to land somewhere else but here. Little piles of desert dirt begins to pile up at the seams of our doors and windows. If you walk outside, you hold your breath or risk breathing in a mouthful of it.
On the horizon, the dust storm, clocking in around 30 mph I hear, turns what is usually a clear view to a blanket of grey that wiped out my view of our entire town. I can no longer see two blocks away. The sun is out, but there is a haze that covers it completely.
It is an unusual thing living in a place that is overtaken by dust — where you have to hold down pool covers with rocks, move outdoor furniture against the house, and hope your kid’s plastic swing set doesn’t fly into the neighbors yard.
The wind will die down tonight — it usually does once the sun goes down. But, it will pick back up tomorrow. It might even get up to 60 mph, they say.