Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Day the Sky Turned Black

It was 6:30 pm - daytime - according to the indiglo time on my watch. But the sky was pitch black -- a kind of black where every bit of light is obscured from the sky and you can't see your hand in front of your face.

Not ten minutes before, casually strolling home under bright blue skies after watering my garden (and you'll see the irony in this in a minute), I met my teenage friend Ablaye on the path, who, as usual, wanted to show off an English phrase he knew. On this admittedly hot afternoon, he said, "Today is very hot, because I think that the rain, it comes." I turned to the East and saw what he was talk about: low dark clouds that seemed to be heading our way. Still feeling no sense of urgency, I slowly made my way home and helped my sister check on the fish that we had been drying in the sun.

Before I knew what was happening, though, there was electricity in the air, the wind kicked into gear, people were running and screaming, and I myself felt a certain panic surge within my body. I dashed into my room just in time to grab my solar charger from my open-air douche and slam the doors and window. Then, I huddled on the porch with my family as everything went black, right before my eyes... and stayed that way for a good few minutes. These were the sandstorms of which I had heard tell, but no description or story could have prepared me for this. When the sand had blown through, the sky lightened - slightly - and then the rains came, rains like nothing I have EVER seen. This was so much more than rain "coming down in sheets" -- it was more like a hundred powerful fire hoses had been turned on and pointed at the village at a 45 degree angle. It didn't stop, or even lighten, for at least an hour. Never before have I witnessed such a spectacular testament to the fury that Mother Nature can exact. It was the kind of thing that made me feel entirely powerless, and that made me glad that I didn't have to worry about protecting small children or animals.

Also, it must be noted, my fellow villagers seemed basically un-phased by the weather phenomenon. Not 30 minutes after the worst of the storm had passed, my sister alerted that dinner was ready! The next morning, my neighbors were cheerfully rebuilding their stick fences. The first verbal acknowledgment of abnormal events that I was able to extract from my neighbors came later in the morning, when I went to help the women prepare a bulk of beignets for the school party. They nonchalantly changed their daily "How is the morning?" diatribe to include "How was the wind?" instead of "How is the heat?" Other than that, business as usual!

Below are some pictures that really don't do justice to the storm I experienced, but that's because I was running by the time it got really dark.

The approaching storm.

Notice the kid running for his compound - that's when I knew!


  1. Whoa!!! CRAZY!!! And I thought we had it bad here in the Pacific Northwest! Wonderful description of your frightening experience! Thankfully because of your writings, we live these experiences with you.
    Much Love Em...

  2. Yow-sa! Love your description of the storm. Miss those crazy Senegalese summer storms. Hope you have many more. Um, I mean, I'd like to read about more. Well, I mean, gosh...enjoy the summer.