Extreme Winter Weather: Not for the faint of heart

Usually when we think of winter storms, we imagine monster blizzards that leave people stranded, or maybe a serious nor’easter that brings heavy winds, snowfall, and rising sea levels. We think of cozying down inside a warm blanket by the fire, maybe roasting some chestnuts (or at least drinking a hot beverage), and waiting out the raging storm until the next morning when snow covers the ground with possibilities for snow forts and snow men. It sounds like Park City, Utah is getting plenty of this kind of winter weather, and will ring in Christmas and the New Year with plenty of opportunities for traditional wintering activities like snow skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, sledding, and snow men and fort building.

But what about other winter storms, like the one that swept through the plains of West Texas on Dec 19th? Also known as a haboob, this monster of a dust storm was responsible for closing down an interstate for several hours after reducing visibility to several yards, at best, as well as coating the entire region in a thin layer of dust, not snow. The word haboob comes from Arabic, where dust storms are common, and refers to an intense type of dust storm that is carried on an atmospheric gravity current. It often results in scenes like these:






While going out in the midst of a blizzard is not encouraged, neither is braving the tiny particles of dust raging through the air during one of these extreme weather events.

Still, whether snow, rain, sleet, hail, or dust, wintry weather can encourage us to stay inside, snuggle up with our loved ones or a good book, and get a free pass on running errands or working in the weather. Unless you’re a US Postal Service worker. Then you deserve a medal.

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