I love this photo. It's not mine, and it's not taken on our farm. But it could have been. This is what a dust storm looks like once it's already hit.
Last year we had about 5 of them hit. Hard to imagine when you consider all the rain and flooding we have had this year. The weather is a funny thing.
It's impossible to tell by this photo, but this was possibly the worst dust storm we have had since I have lived here. This photo was taken from our back yard, facing south east. The worst of the storm had already passed. The worst of the storm hit while we were sleeping. A silent predator. And this is what we woke up to outside.
It was a night much like any other night. CP and I have a large window above our bed. We keep all the house doors open (with gauze sliding doors closed). When the weather is warm we keep it open and this helps the air to circulate. The night the dust storm hit, I remember hearing the wind picking up as I slept. I heard the whistling of the wind through the trees. I think I even remember the faint smell of dust swirling through the air. But it didn't bother me at the time. I put the dusty smell down to the fact that it had been quite dry and that of course, with a little wind, it would make it's way from the bare earth, into the swiftly moving breeze.
By daylight something felt amiss. The air was heavy. My sinuses were playing up. I lifted my head from the pillow to look out the window. I wiped away the feeling of hair or powder on my face and noticed, on the back of my hand, that it wasn't hair or powder, but in fact red dust. As I sat upright in bed, I noticed the white silhouette of my head on a pillow now coated in fine red particles. The dust had layered everything in our house with a red coat of dust. We saw what you have seen in the pictures above all around us.
As I walked through the house, my feet left little imprints into my new 'dust carpet'. It was millimeters thick in places. I was torn between feeling angry, astonished and down right amazed. I had never seen anything like it.
Eventually the feeling of walking and sitting on layer upon layer of dust got the better of me, and I spent the entire day vacuuming and revacuuming and dusting and cleaning away areas of dust. It wasn't a big clean by any means, but it served the purpose of allowing me to eat and relax without feeling 'dirty'. My house was manageable.
Three days later I awoke to another dust storm. 'Depressed' does not even come close to describing the way I was feeling. And so I set about cleaning again. I can't remember if there were 2 or 3 dust storms in that 'series', but I do remember there being about 3 or 4 good dust storms that year. If you can call them 'good'.
On the second or third day after our initial dust storm, the east coast of Australia woke to this...
An orange haze that encompassed the coastline. The dust had made it's way east, and now the 'coasties' were having a taste of what we had already been experiencing out west. It sucked.
One week into 'the dust', I started the real clean up. This meant taking books off book shelves, cups and plates out of cupboards, (in fact, emptying ALL cupboards), taking curtains down, and moving furniture around. Vacuuming and mopping were not enough. You had to do it all at least twice. The red dust had permeated everything. Weeks later you could still taste the dust. It had settled on all the leaves on all the trees. We had to wait weeks still for rain to remove the dust from the grass. I'm sure it was still in my skin, my hair and my nostrils.
The stories were the same everywhere you went. The school in town still shows signs of the dust. You can't clean every page of every book in a place the size of a school. At least no one in town was criticising anyone for the 'state of their houses'. A dirty house was easily forgiven. At least we didn't have wet paint that had been drying when the storm hit... like someone I knew. So it could have been worse.
When I first moved out to the farm, my mother in law once told me not to get too hooked up on the dust. She explained that in a house like ours on a farm like ours, dust was inevitable. Don't clean it every day. Just do it as you really need to. And she was right of course. And mostly I try really hard to stay calm about it all. Mostly, it's easy enough to do. But this week in 2009 was different. I will never forget that week. The depressing nature of dust, and the amazing power of mother nature.
PS: For anyone who is interested, the following video showing Dust Storm Footage was shot in Broken Hill in the same series of dust storms... just so you see how fierce mother nature can be at times... (Click on the link above).