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When the Desert Winds Turn Deadly
June 4, 2006 8:46 AM   Subscribe

"The sky turned orange as the storm approached, until total darkness blanketed the ground." Sandstorms in Iraq -- caused by heating of the desert sand and a northwesterly summer wind known as the shamal -- can kill. (A similiar storm over Interstate 5 in California in 1991 caused a deadly 164-car pileup.) They can also be uncannily beautiful and dream-like when seen from a distance (WMP link).
posted by digaman (35 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Beatiful, awe insipiring, terrible !
posted by elpapacito at 9:09 AM on June 4, 2006


I grew up in Saudi Arabia, and our school yearbooks were always named "Shamaal."
posted by Cyrano at 9:29 AM on June 4, 2006


wild.
posted by digaman at 9:32 AM on June 4, 2006


And this post leaves out the Dust Bowl. Is American history that bad? Come on.
posted by j-urb at 9:44 AM on June 4, 2006


I should say "Is American history being taught that bad?" And I'll answer that question because it is so obvious: "yes."
posted by j-urb at 9:46 AM on June 4, 2006


I wonder what kind of D.U. laced silicosis of the lungs these can produce.
Great link!
posted by Balisong at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2006


j-urb, the difference between helpful participation in a thread and snark is posting "and here's a link to the Dust Bowl" rather than bitching about the FPP, American history, the sad state of education, and whatever else is on your piss list.

In fact, the link on "deadly 164-car pileup" leads to a Wikipedia page that has one of the most astounding photographs I've ever seen from the Dust Bowl Era.
posted by digaman at 10:00 AM on June 4, 2006


Crikey, looks a special effect for a bad mummy film. Would strike one dumb. Lovely.
posted by econous at 10:02 AM on June 4, 2006


I've been caught on a highway in the middle of one of these, not a fun experience.
posted by atrazine at 10:03 AM on June 4, 2006


And this post leaves out the Dust Bowl. Is American history that bad? Come on.

Weird. Maybe the world really doesn't revolve around America...
posted by soiled cowboy at 10:31 AM on June 4, 2006


In a recent post on the failed American attempt to rescue its hostages from Iran in 1980, the Persians called these things "haboobs."

Neat.
posted by bardic at 11:52 AM on June 4, 2006


Yeah, that was a fascinating piece by Mark Bowden.



DESERT ONE, APRIL 24, LATE EVENING

As the lead plane closed in on the landing site, its pilots noted curious milky patches in the night sky. They flew through one that appeared to be just haze, not evensubstantial enough to interfere with the downward-looking radar. They approached a second one as they got closer to the landing site. John Carney, who had come into the cockpit to be ready to activate the landing lights he had buried on his trip weeks earlier, was asked, "What do you make of that stuff out there?"

He looked through the co-pilot's window and answered the question: "You're in a haboob." The men in the cockpit laughed at the word.

"No, we're flying through suspended dust," Carney explained. "The Iranians call it a haboob." He had learned this from the CIA pilots who had flown him in earlier. Shifting air pressure sometimes forced especially fine desert sand straight up thousands of feet, where it hung like a vertical cloud for hours. It was just a desert curiosity, nothing that could cause a problem for the planes. But Air Force Colonel James H. Kyle, whose responsibility included all airborne aspects of the mission, knew that the haboob would be trouble for a helicopter. He had noticed that the temperature inside the plane went up significantly when they passed through the first haboob. He conferred with the plane's crew, and suggested they break radio silence and call "Red Barn," the command center at map icon Wadi Kena, to warn the helicopter formation behind them. The chopper pilots might want to break formation or fly higher to avoid the stuff. It took the lead plane about thirty minutes to fly through this second patch, indicating that it extended about a hundred miles.

posted by digaman at 12:14 PM on June 4, 2006


Just imagine yourself standing outside, American or Iraqi, watching that approach. I know one of the thoughts running through my mind would be "I sure as hell hope all that talk about Depleted Uranium is just talk."
posted by jamjam at 1:17 PM on June 4, 2006


I see j-urb is taking the role of ugly American today. Watch for his next appearance in Landslide in Indonesia: In Which We Talk About A Landslide in California, Because All Things Must Be Americentric!

I'm disappointed to not see photos or video showing the change as the leading edge envelops the photographer. What's it look like when the edge is only a dozen feet away? When you're inside the storm?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2006


Required MIDI link...
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:35 PM on June 4, 2006


http://rivendell.fortunecity.com/redguard/636/midis2/dune.mid
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:37 PM on June 4, 2006


I'm disappointed to not see photos or video showing the change as the leading edge envelops the photographer. What's it look like when the edge is only a dozen feet away? When you're inside the storm?
posted by five fresh fish


You must not have watched the video at the last link (WMP link)..."take shelter"..."damn"...
posted by taosbat at 3:21 PM on June 4, 2006


This happened in one episode of Carnivàle, set in the mid-1930s American midwest. They did a good job of reproducing the feeling of being completely enveloped and helpless.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:23 PM on June 4, 2006


When dust storms hit New Delhi every year, just before the monsoon rains start mid-June, a wall of rusty cloud comes barreling from the Thar desert to the west, mixed with the red dirt of Rajasthan. No amount of piling up wet towels in front of shut windows, doors, shutters, cupboards, closets prevents EVERYTHING from getting covered in a layer of red talcum-powder-fine dust. A major pain to clean up.

Locals call it a simoom, which is really the name for the poison wind that blows East out of the Sahara. In the desert itself the Simoom kills like lightning.

In the Mediterranean the dust laden wind that blows to the north from the Sahara is called the Scirocco and people often complain about it, saying it causes headaches and malaise.

Loved the dust storm scene in Hidalgo.

Here are some cool dust storm videos:
The best one, from a distance, then closer, then engulfed in darkness.

Another good one, showing how totally dark it is inside the storm.

And just for fun, a nasty little dust devil in the middle of a Little League baseball game in Japan.
posted by nickyskye at 4:35 PM on June 4, 2006


I'm never sure if WMP is going to play on my Mac... I'll give it a shot.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:44 PM on June 4, 2006


Nebbermind, Nickyskye's links do the trick. OMFG.

Also, the little league one is awesome.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:50 PM on June 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


fff, if it helps, nickyskye's 'The best one' link goes to a Google video of the same clip.
posted by taosbat at 4:59 PM on June 4, 2006


Nebbermind
posted by taosbat at 4:59 PM on June 4, 2006


No amount of piling up wet towels in front of shut windows, doors, shutters, cupboards, closets prevents EVERYTHING from getting covered in a layer of red talcum-powder-fine dust.
posted by nickyskye


My mom is a dustbowl baby. She's talked about trying to stuff bits of burlap rags in all the chinks...and the dust floating in anyway.
posted by taosbat at 5:24 PM on June 4, 2006


Not chinks, man: the correct term is "East Asian."
posted by five fresh fish at 5:47 PM on June 4, 2006


a narrow opening as e.g. between planks in a wall, woman.
posted by taosbat at 5:56 PM on June 4, 2006


Did you not hear a whirring sound passing above your head as you read that, taosbat? 'cause you should have: it was the joke passing you by.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:29 PM on June 4, 2006


It seems you missed me: no whirr...must'a been pretty high up there.
posted by taosbat at 8:01 PM on June 4, 2006



In fact, the link on "deadly 164-car pileup" leads to a Wikipedia page that has one of the most astounding photographs I've ever seen from the Dust Bowl Era


Is that an authentic Dust Bowl Era booger on that photo? Astounding -- I'll say!

Sorry. Nonsmartass response: thanks for the post. I am reading about the Dust Bowl now, because I am one of those stupid kids who was making booger jokes during history class. But now I find history fascinating. I wish I had the time to relearn everything I should have learned in grade school ...
posted by theredpen at 8:09 PM on June 4, 2006


wow taosbat, So your mom went through the dustbowl. That must have been truly awful. It lasted year after year with such devastating impacts. All during the Great Depression. I've only been through a measly handful of short lived dust storms. What she survived was harrowing. Here's one of those old movies I enjoy from the Prelinger Archive about dustbowl days.

In India they have mats of woven vetiver root, called "chiks". (Not East Asian women, chiks). These are hung over the window like a blind. In the midday summer heat -often over 110 degrees F- when pre-monsoon dust is in the air, a little water is drizzled over the mat and any little breeze that comes through the window is infused with the marvelous fragrance of vetiver, cooling and refreshing.

Also, in India, when the farmers drive their water buffalo and cows home at night it creates dust clouds and so twilight in the Indian countryside is called the hour of cow dust.
posted by nickyskye at 8:54 PM on June 4, 2006


Cool links, nickyskye, thanks.

Some of my mom's earliest memories are of the choking and twilight air in the house.

A cousin with asthma died of the bad air when my mom was young. When I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, it gave her the horrors.

I live in a dusty little town, now, and I so want some of those "chiks." Maybe I can get them in Santa Fe, where all the Californians shop...
posted by taosbat at 9:51 PM on June 4, 2006


taosbat, God, how awful to grow up choking on dust. Yes, dust can kill.

Have you ever tried the Buteyko eucapnic breathing method for your asthma? Yup, your neck of the woods looks like it could be pretty dusty.

Hmm, looked up chiks online. Doubt you'll get them in Santa Fe. But one never knows. I found a nice vetiver mat online here. One could cut away the canvas backing so the breeze passes though? Here are vetiver drapes, also about the same price. The Hindi word for vetiver is khus. You might call the wonderful Kalustyans and ask them if they sell or know where you could buy a "Khus ki chik" (kuss kee chick) or a "khus ki tatti" (kuss kee tahtee), which means a vetiver window blind.
posted by nickyskye at 10:57 PM on June 4, 2006


Thanks again, nickyskye. I'd never heard of the 'Buteyko eucapnic breathing method.' I bookmarked the site and am reading the articles.

Yup, pretty dusty. I'm thinking about those drapes. They might be pretty cool.
posted by taosbat at 2:43 PM on June 5, 2006


Huh. I wonder if 'chink' (as in wedging stuffing into a crack) is a corruption (? dunno if that's the literary term) of 'chik'?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:47 PM on June 5, 2006


fff: In Hindi the word "chik" means slatted blind.
Not related to the Old English word, "chink" meaning to crack open, which then became the racist word for Asians with epicanthic eyes. More about the epicanthal fold.

chink
"slit," 1535, from M.E. chine (with parasitic -k) from O.E. cinu "fissure," related to cinan "to crack, split, gape," from PIE base *gei-, *gi- "to germinate, bloom," connection being in the notion of bursting open. The unrelated derogatory slang word for "a Chinaman" first recorded 1901.


the etymology of the word chink, which is purportedly a diminutive for "Chinese" but as most asian Americans will tell you, Koreans, Thai people, Japanese people, Malaysians, Indonesians, Filipinos, and other members of the A/PI community have been potential targets for the word, which racistly assumes that all asian people are/look the same.
posted by nickyskye at 10:38 AM on June 9, 2006


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