A Bit Windy in West Texas…

Driving to work last week...
Driving to work last week…

The spring time months in some parts of the world means flowers opening, trees budding, and a relief from severe cold weather. Here in West Texas, spring tends to mean something else: Dust.

You may have seen the dust storms in cowboy movies of the past: high levels of wind, dust close to the ground (and up) turning the lower part of the sky brown, tumble weeds blowing across the screen… My friends and country people – this is all true for where I live. There’s little Hollywood hyperbole needed to convey the dust storm experience on screen.

And we have had a dusty few days this week, including a haboob which arrived late yesterday afternoon. (I didn’t know about it as I was inside, but the pics look impressive.)

Haboob coming into town. (Photo: NWS/Lubbock.)
Haboob coming into town. (Photo: NWS/Lubbock.)

People complain about the dust, but it’s to be expected when one lives in a semi-arid environment (like where we are), we haven’t had any truly large rain storms since before Christmas (only 0.2” rainfall so far this year), we are in the midst of a severe decade-long drought, and there is little ground cover (mostly due to agricultural concerns). (In fact, I saw an article where one of our local towns was going to run out of water in 60 – 90 days if we didn’t get rain. Run. Out. Of. Water!)

Better than we were in 2011, but still in drought conditions... Illustration: NWS/Lubbock.
Better than we were in 2011, but still in drought conditions… Illustration: NWS/Lubbock.

And yet people continue to groan and mumble about the water restrictions for watering their lawns, and businesses hoist signs saying “We have private wells” so they can avoid the code restrictions and water their landscaping with impunity. Without rain and further water exploration research, it’s not unforeseeable that semi-arid (and other arid) places are going to turn in to deserted towns (a la cowboy movies).

All this to say that we made the MSN front page this morning with our dust storm of yesterday

I don’t have the answer to solving the water shortage problem – it’s not just here in West Texas – but I do wish people would focus some resources on researching options. If one of our neighboring towns runs out of water (and we get no more rain), what then?

(And, to bring this back to bookishness, in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, part of the back story is that Texas has withered up and been blown away to end up an uninhabitable place. And then of course, I have to mention Tim Egan’s The Worst Hard Time, Dorothy Scarborough’s early classic The Wind, and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath…)

I love living in West Texas. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being alarmist, but the question remains: will there be a habitable West Texas to love in 20 years time?

Photo: NWS/Lubbock.
Photo: NWS/Lubbock.

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