A dust storm caused a massive pile-up on Interstate 10 in Arizona at just after noon yesterday. If I hadn’t seen the news footage for myself, I would have thought someone was making it up, perhaps, as a stunt for the next blockbuster disaster movie. A birds-eye shot shows dozens of cars, semi-trucks, and tractor-trailers strewn out on the interstate in irregular zig-zag designs.
A cloud-storm of sandy brown funnel dust blankets the screen making visibility close to zero. A 70-year-old man was killed and 15 people were injured, but that number may climb higher. The mysterious dust storm first appeared at Picacho, a small town that’s midway between Phoenix and Tucson. “It looks like a war zone,” says firefighter Patrick Calhoun.
The dust storm strikes again two hours later (at 2 PM) on I-10 at Casa Grande, which caused eight vehicles to collide. Other crashes later in the day are attributable to this same dust storm. Apparently these dust storms can form very quickly, according to meteorologists working in this desert area of Arizona. As it moves through an area, it will pick up topsoil, and it will transform into a dust tornado of sorts.
We have very severe drought conditions here in Texas, and I suspect they may be experiencing something similar to this in Arizona. Fires are breaking out all over Texas, and without any rain, it’s nearly impossible to contain them, such as was the case over in Bastrop about a month ago. While fires are easier to understand, dust storms are shrouded in mystery.
I have, however, studied some on the Dust Bowl phenomenon of the 1930s. I do have a copy of Timothy Egan’s book The Worst Hard Time (The Untold Story of Those Who Survived The Great American Dust Bowl). The tragedy of the Dust Bowl is also documented in John Steinbeck’s masterpiece of The Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath. While it’s complicated, the reality of this multi-dimensional disaster was largely man-made.
The photographs in Timothy Egan’s book are priceless. One photo, captioned with Dust storm approaching Johnson, Kansas, April 14, 1935, shows massive clouds of dust completely enveloping a farmhouse. Another one captures a farmhouse in Oklahoma, nearly entirely buried with sandy dust. Black Sunday in Colorado looks like Katrina, but its puffy clouds of dust instead!
These dust storms looked like Armageddon to these poor people in the 1930s, and from my vantage point (sipping java comfortably at my I-Mac) the blowing clouds of beige dirt are eerily similar to passages from the Book of Revelations. Catastrophic weather phenomenon that reap only devastation on Mankind spell out an unfettered anger of Yahweh, screaming for revenge. Or if you would prefer a scientific spin, I’m open for suggestions?