Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Durango dust bowl ...

It started a deep-blue day. Then some thin clouds slid in; then the breeze picked up, quickly maturing into a blustery wind.

Then the all-too-familiar silver sheen fell over everything, making the La Platas and Missionary Ridge and Perins Peak seem to slip behind a thin veneer, a sheer sheet making the valley's surrounds slowly fade into a general whiteness.

This is the spring routine we've grown used to, as dust storms driven by spring fronts dredge the deserts of the Four Corners, then drive that dust up the Colorado Plateau, billowing up along the wall of the San Juans.

That was today.

Then, around 4, when I was heading out to pick up my daughter, something else appeared in the west: A great yellow-brown smudge come to blot out whatever visibility remained.

Once this ground cloud swept over the neighborhood -- turning the afternoon light a spooky and heavy gold -- there was nothing on the horizon taller than a tree or rooftop.

Like a white-out in winter, this was a -- yet another -- yellow-out in spring. I could feel the grit in my teeth. It tasted like Utah.

According to the Sustainable Development Strategies Group, there were four major dust storms in the Four Corners in 2005, eight for each of the next three years, and 14 major events in 2009.

Here's a story about the dust-bowl conditions on the Navajo Nation.

Here's a Durango Telegraph story about SUWA's proposal to designate more wilderness in Utah to fight dust storms.

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