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You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 2/8/09 - 2/15/09

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Meanwhile...Back at the Ranch...

The kids (and that means Dave too) were enjoying their first "workable" snow of the season.

What does "workable" mean? It means snow angels that didn't blow away, plus snowmen and snow forts!

Enjoy the slideshow!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

My First Attempt at a VIDEO: Shamal

This is my attempt to share a video I took about 1/2 hour after the first wall of dust and wind hit us here on the 11th. Visibility was about 1/10 of a mile and the winds were from the northwest at 35-40 knots.
It takes a REALLY long time to upload a video to You Tube from here, so this is a Google Picasa attempt.

From 2009 02 11 Shamal
Click on it and see what happens...also feel free to view the rest of the pictures from this album here. I didn't take many, conditions weren't great for the camera.
The wind has died down considerably today, but the dust is still suspended in about the lowest 500 feet. Visibilities are up to about 3 miles, but dust is still getting everywhere, including my laptop as I type this. Don't fret, Dave sent me plenty of canned air and computer cleansing wipes.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Books Read on this Deployment So Far

As many of you might remember from my days in Deidre's Bookclub, I typically don't read fast. I was lucky if I could get around to finishing the club's book of the month!
Not so here! I'm able to read 1-2 hours per day and I am absolutely blasting through so many books I've wanted to read for years and years!
Enjoy this list. I'm maintaining this list on my iPhone's notepad function and I can email it into my blog as it grows. Today I start a new book, Predator by Patricia Cornwell.
Books Read on this Deployment
(includes date completed)
1.) The Marching Season, Daniel Silva: 16 Jan 09
2.) Angels and Demons, Dan Brown: 20 Jan 09
3.) Deception Point, Dan Brown: 25 Jan 09
4.) The Other Boleyn Girl, Phillipa Gregory: 3 Feb 09
5.) Marley & Me, John Grogan: 5 Feb 09
6.) Cruel and Unusual, Patricia Cornwell: 11 Feb 09

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Dust Storm, Day 2: Wheres the Pledge?

The dust storm continues. It isn't as windy as yesterday, only gusting up to about 25 instead of 35 knots. But the chalky goodness is still flooding down from Syria and Iraq.
I'm usually the first to admit that I haven't truly forecast the weather in a really long time and on this trip I tend to leave the serious science to our talented and capable NCOs. I'm a communicator and manager of the weather and weather-resources here.
That being said, today I actually felt pretty strongly that the dust here was going to continue several hours longer than originally forecast and I'm very glad that those of us who felt that way were able to convince those who thought we'd be back to sunny skies by now.
We were right! We'll experience this dustiness through sunset, most likely. There were some who thought the dust would clear up right after sunrise.
And enjoy that one-and-only time I talk about my work here.
This base has been transformed by the dust. What little color there was on the base, such as vehicles, decorative emblems, etc. are now covered in a sandy film. Every exterior surface, and even many interior surfaces, have a fine dust settled on top.
There's no point doing anything about it right now, we have about 9 more hours of'll just get all dustied up again.
It's a ghost town. We're advised to remain inside, although there are some hard-core types enduring the weather to take advantage of the lightning speed WiFi access right now.
I'm typing this up on my iPhone, then will come outside just long enough to transmit it.
Back to the gross!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Shamal 101

I sorta figured this would happen while I'm here.

"What's that?"

A shamal.

"What the heck is a shamal?"

Well, let's define it here. It's a strong northerly wind that picks up dust from Syria and Jordan and carries it all the way down the Arabian peninsula.

And it's shamal-ing right now as I type this. The winds are gusting to 40 knots from the northwest, and the dust came down all the way from Syria -- we watched it on the satellite! I even saw the wall of dust towards the northwest minutes before the winds started here, but I was in a no-photography area so I wasn't able to capture it for you.

(Side note: I have to give public kudos to the forecast team in the U.S. and here at my base for the great job they did predicting its onset here. They said it would arrive by noon, and it got here at 11:55am!)

I have a couple pictures of what shamal vs. non-shamal conditions look like here, but they didn't turn out really well. I won't include them here, but I wish I could have captured how it looks here better. Here's a picture I swiped from someone else's website (the picture has instructions on how to link, so my assumption is that it was legal to do so), of my base in 2004 under the SAME conditions as I'm experiencing right now.

Dawgs Walking to Work

It looks like fog. That "you can't see your hand in front of your face" kind of fog. If you're standing inside looking out into this stuff out the window it looks like a brownish-yellow fog. But the wind is howling...and if you inhale too deeply, you start coughing. If you breathe the air without a cover over your mouth for too long, you feel the grit on your teeth. It smells sort of like chalkboard chalk. Do you remember clapping together blackboard erasers when you were younger? And inhaling that dust for too long? That's the sensation.

You feel the grit on your hands, in your hair, and on the surface of your skin. I stood outside for 5 minutes waiting for a bus from my duty location back to my dorms and could feel how dirty my hair was in that short time. Again, remember how chalk dust feels on your hands after you've dusted off the excess. A fine grit.

If your eyes aren't covered, the dust gets into the eyes and it's difficult to see as your eyes get watery. I have goggles for my eyes and am carrying around a small towel to cover my mouth.

I was talking to a British fighter pilot today right when the storm started and in a typical British no-holds-barred fashion, he gave gory details about where on our person we'd be finding shamal dust remnants for days after the event ends. I can't wait.

It becomes hazardous to do things outside in these conditions. As if the winds and reduced visibilities aren't enough of a problem, the respiratory hazards associated with prolonged inhaling of this dust can be a problem too.

Even though I'm inside right now typing this (I am usually outside where the WiFi is stronger), there's still a layer of dust settling on my keyboard, and the table on which my laptop is sitting.

A shamal event wreaked havoc on the coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003. For you weather weenies, here's a paper about the meteorology of the shamal that impacted the "march to Baghdad" in late March '03. There are arguments to this day about the amount of advantage coalition forces were able to gain from the duststorm, but I'm not going there.

So it'll be interesting to see how I feel when this is all done, and how long before I blow all the dust out of my nose, clean it out of my ears, and wash it out of my hair.

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