We were driving back from Walmart one day last week. When we passed by the local bank we use here, Gene turned into the parking lot, saying he might as well deposit a check we’d just received. The air was still and warm, the sun was out and I told him I would just wait for him in the car while he did the bank business.
Almost immediately I felt too warm sitting there, so first I opened the passenger window, and followed that up by opening my car door to let the warm air mix with a breeze just kicking up.
What happened next could only happen in Colorado. To pass the time in the car, I not only opened the car door but I had actually stuck my leg out to catch the breeze. You will have to take my word for it, but here is what happened in a matter of five minutes. The sun dipped behind a cloud, the warmth in the air turned into a cold wind and suddenly I was being covered, head to toe, by tiny bits of gravel.
In fact, I was holding a latte from Sonic and when I put the cup to my mouth for a sip, I got a mouth full of grit or whatever had invaded the air.
Because I am old and slow to “get it”, I flat did not realize how the weather could turn, in an instant, from a warm, sunny afternoon to some monstrous dirt storm. I looked down at my clothes and I was covered with dirt. Instinctively, I grabbed the door handle to close it and the strength of the wind made it impossible to shut.
To quote Larry the Cable Guy, I spewed, “Holy crap!!!!” as I continued to wrestle with the door.
Just about that time, here came Gene, who had been inside the bank. When he entered the bank maybe 10 minutes earlier, it was a beautiful warm, windless day. As he stepped outside, he was almost knocked flatter than a pancake by a fierce wind filled with stinging particles. You should have seen the shock on his face. He realized I was struggling with my door so he came to my rescue, and with all his might, slammed it shut. Then he reached his side, somehow folded himself inside and shut his door.
So there we were, two old folks sitting, staring at each other and wondering what on the face of this earth had just happened.
Floating on top of my latte was all this grit which made it undrinkable. My blue jeans had turned to this brownish-gray tone, so absently with the flat of my other hand, I began to remove whatever on earth had just, with absolutely no warning, fallen from the darkened sky to cover our world.
We must have sat there in the parking lot a good while. I think we were not sure just what to do next, how safe we were — or not. I watched as drivers in cars on their way to wherever were pulling quickly to the sides of the road to “what?” To wait? Why? I cant ever recall feeling so out of it but I figured most of those drivers knew more about what was happening than we did so i watched them. I think maybe 15 minutes passed when, one by one, the drivers began to restart their engines and slowly proceeded to their wherevers. I urged Gene to slowly head for home. We did not talk. The pelting of whatever was in the wind made a noise that filled the car. People ducked their heads beneath folded arms raised to protect themselves as they ran for cover.
We passed the golf course just next door to our house. There were people who, just a half hour earlier, had been happily playing their game but who now huddled in groups under big trees on the course. We watched as the wind picked up one of the abandoned golf carts and toss it like it was cardboard across the green.
We parked our car as close to our front door as possible and, holding on to each other, we made a mad dash for the safety of home.
Gene went directly to the TV, flipped it on in hopes of hearing some report of what had just happened.
Sure enough, the weather person was saying that the whole county, and Salida in particular, had just experienced something called a dust storm, something that rolls down the mountains with no warning, turning day into night and hiding a warm sun behind winds filled with dirt. It is short-lived. Already the worst was over.
You know what? We did not even cook dinner that night. The eerieness of that experience had completely drained us. From what we have been told, we will see another such freak of nature one day. I just hope it will occur in the middle of the night and we sleep right through it. If nothing else, life in this little Colorado mountain town is never boring. Just watching the extreme changes in weather is enough to keep us interested and alert.
The view from the mountains is wondrous.