Dust Storm in Colorado's San Luis Valley, May 23, 2012

by John Farley

During the week of May 20, there were several days with high wind across Colorado, New Mexico, and neighboring states. On May 23, gusts over 50 mph to even as high as 60 mph were reported in a number of locations in Colorado and New Mexico, including several valley locations, not just the high mountain locations where such gusts occur on many days every year. As we were driving across the San Luis Valley between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m., we observed several dust storms, including this especially intense one a little before 3 p.m. between Alamosa (where a 52 mph gust was recorded around this time, with sustained wind of 43 mph) and Monte Vista:

The combination of high wind, a dry winter and spring, and the presence of a number of plowed fields in the valley made for perfect conditions for dust storms. As we crossed through the one pictured above, visibility decreased to just a few hundred feet. Sorry for the picture quality; all I could do was snap the best pic I could with my iPhone as we were about to enter the dust storm. But in the second picture, notice how high the dust is being lifted on the right side of the picture.

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