Haboobs are nothing new

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By Jay Miller

As it turns out, longtime New Mexicans know about haboobs. We just didn’t know there was a name for them.
The word “Haboob” was totally new to me and to most New Mexicans until a haboob hit Phoenix two years ago. When something hits the nation’s sixth largest city, it’s a bigger deal than when it hits Deming, or even El Paso, Texas.
When I grew up in the dry, windy 1940s and early 1950s, I can remember several haboobs. We called them big dust storms. My wife remembers them from El Paso. They looked like a very tall wall of sand coming toward us. We knew to run inside and close the windows.
The term haboob originated in the Middle East and that is where they most frequently occur. President Jimmy Carter’s plan to free the Iranian hostages in 1980 was thwarted by a haboob. In fact there were two of them, a small one followed by a big one. They sent aircraft crashing into each other and destroyed a plan that otherwise might have worked.
The lack of awareness of the impending haboobs was blamed on poor weather forecasting in the nearby vast desert region. But it turns out that haboobs form quickly on the front of desert storms. Recently, both Carlsbad and Albuquerque have reported haboobs.
My research shows that in this country, haboobs often are called Arizona dust storms. That should be good news to the New Mexico tourism industry. We’ll be glad to have haboobs credited to Arizona.
The tourism folks are complaining that our forest fires are keeping tourists away. Maybe so. But on national newscasts, all I hear about is the Colorado fires and, to some extent, California fires. The reason for that is that our fires have spared people’s lives and property.
Here’s a real attention grabber. St. Louis has been named America’s new Sin City according to the online real estate blog, Movoto.
The blog doesn’t sound impressive but it must have a lot of readers because of the number of blogs about the results.
Movoto used the Seven Deadly Sins as a yardstick. It then found a statistic to measure the extent of that sin in the larger cities of the nation.
Here’s how the researchers set up the study. Number of strip clubs per capita (lust), cosmetic surgeons per capita (pride), violent crimes (wrath), thefts (envy), charitable donations (greed), obesity (gluttony) and physically inactive residents (sloth).
No New Mexico cities made the top 10. For that we can rejoice. The St. Louis mayor’s office says it is pleased because it will attract more tourists.
I don’t think so. This isn’t the type of sinning that tourists think of when they flock to Las Vegas, which came in at number 10.
I watch sports on television whenever I can. I tend to make up my mind about a city based on the behavior of its fans. St. Louis fans tend to be knowledgeable and polite. But evidently, they are closet sinners.
I got interested in the deadly sins 50 years ago when I was assigned to attend all 89 public school budget hearings around the state. The task took much of the spring so Jeanette resigned from teaching and traveled the roads of New Mexico with me.
Many of the hearings were held in county court houses. WPA art from the 1930s adorned the walls. Often there were big murals in the court room. A favorite subject of the paintings and murals was the seven sins. So we did some studying and learned some big words, such as avarice and vainglory, to impress our friends at cocktail parties.
Here are some of the other cities that made the list of places you might want to think twice about visiting. In order, they are Orlando, Minneapolis, Pittsburg, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Miami, Buffalo, N.Y. and Detroit.