Monday, June 06, 2005


Iraqi Dust Storm

We just experienced our first major Iraqi dust storm here on our FOB, and now I know what everyone was talking about. It hit overnight, and this morning as I step out of my room I’m greeted by an 1/8 inch thick coat (no, cake) of dust covering every exposed surface.

My clerk had the foresight to cover his workstation with a large sheet, and flip the laptops closed so electronically speaking we came out okay. My Commander wasn’t as fortunate, as he was caught outside coming back from the Gym and had to fight his way through air filled with fine, gritty sand.

One of the cooks got lost walking back from the Dining Facility (DFAC), took a wrong turn and took 30 minutes to get home instead of his usual 10. The DFAC itself shut down the grills and hot tables for the midnight meal, serving only cereal and other packaged foodstuffs.

It was like a snowstorm of silt. Visibility zero. Breathing was difficult.

This morning, the Latrine Trailers looked like beach cabanas, sand and silt covered the floors, the toilets, the sinks, the windows and even the mirrors

I have an interior room, and other than a very light coat (say, a week’s worth of dust in one night) and grit in my teeth, I made out pretty well.

Some of the Air Conditioners have failed already, the filters of all of them will need a good cleaning. I shudder at what this does to our lungs.

One of our officers had just done his laundry last night, and hung damp uniforms on a line in an outer area of his building, open on one side. This morning, he had a couple of sets of gingerbread cookies on the line. (We all remarked, though, that it was amazing they were still on the line.)

The vehicles, some of which are open doored, many have open seams and cracks, but even the Uparmored M1114s, ones that seal up tightly, were no match for the force of the wind, which managed to squeeze this fine silt into and through even the slightest crevice. A lot of sand came down through holes in the ceiling, the Iraqi equivalent I guess of a leaky roof.

We were having our thrice-weekly training meeting, and our Iraqi workers in a whirlwind washed off the big conference table and a room full of leather chairs. The Conference Room is inside the building (my room is just past it), but the door doesn’t latch closed, and all night while the wind raged, the door would push open, then slam shut. At first, I startled enough to check to see if a mortar or rocket had come in, until I figured out what it was. Even early into the storm, looking out, it looked exactly like a brown-tinted version of a Nor’Easter. (For those unfamiliar, that’s a winter storm that moves up the Atlantic Coast in a North-Eastern direction, and usually dumps 1-3 feet of slow along its wake.)

Our Iraqi workers showed us the best way to clean up from these coatings. Out cam ethe hoses, and they sprayed everything with water. Then they grabbed the long-poled squeegees we use to clear water from the showers into the drains (uneven masonry, of course), and pushed all the silty water to out to the road or into the drains.

Looking out this afternoon, everything is brown. One of our soldiers from Buffalo remarked, “It looks like Buffalo in the spring. Only hot.” This has always been a dusty, sandy place. But now, it’s like we’ve all be playing in the sandbox, not the kind with nice clean beach sand, but the kind with the industrial-dirt pile “sand” that always leaves an oily brown stain. Mrs. Dadmanly says, that’s not sand, that’s dirt.”

(Linked as a covered dish Lunch special over at Basil's Blog. Always plenty there.)

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