Niyol náánáá

(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

A pickup truck appears out of a blowing cloud of dust Tuesday along U.S. Highway 191 west of Chinle.

Even stronger winds slam Dinétah

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, May 13, 2010

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Yahe Beall, 80, from Many Farms, Ariz., recalls that the winds were not as bad when he was young.

It looked like a repeat of two weeks ago, only worse, as blowing dust and winds near hurricane velocity scoured northern Arizona Tuesday, shutting down Interstate 40 and several area schools.

According to the National Weather Service, the wind gusts were once again strongest toward the west, with a gust of 77 mph reported at Two Guns, just south of Leupp, Ariz., 4 mph faster than two weeks ago. Window Rock clocked a gust of 58 mph.

I-40 was closed for most of the day after three semi-trailers toppled, according to Rodney Wigman, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

In Chinle, schools closed at 1:45 p.m. with students urged to get off the campus and out of the blowing dust. The dust cloud reduced visibility to zero in some spots between Winslow and Chinle, according to the weather service.

A power outage hit Chinle Chapter at about 3 p.m. when an unidentified object blew into a transformer near Chinle Junior High, shorting it out, according to Marwin Smiley, a customer service agent for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. The outage lasted nearly two hours.

But Leupp Chapter once again bore the brunt, with gusts over 70 mph.

"Brown cloud of dust over here, you can't see more than a mile away," e-mailed Calvin Johnson of Leupp. "Sand bars are forming along N-15 between Leupp and Birdsprings and Leupp and Tolani Lake (Indian Rt. 99) where the guard rails are."

Johnson reported trash and roof shingles sailing through the air but did not witness any major damage. Most people were hunkering down and staying out of the weather, he said, and school let out early.

National Nursing Home Week festivities at the Navajoland Nursing Home in Chinle ground to an abrupt halt when the power went out, but the residents were happy to reminisce with a Navajo Times reporter about winds past and present.

Yahe Beall, 80, of Many Farms, Ariz., and Marian Begay, 73, of Chinle, both said they don't remember the wind being this bad when they were younger.

Beall, a retired medicine man, said the elders used to get together and conduct ceremonies for good weather in those days.

"Today, nobody spends any time outside and nobody cares how the weather is," he opined. "Nobody plants corn. Nobody herds sheep. So why should they care?"

Begay said there was more grass in those days and you wouldn't see the choking dust storms of today.

But Annie Tsosie of Valley Store, Ariz., who believes she's 87 or 88, says those youngsters may be misremembering.

"It was always this bad," she said in Navajo. "In fact, it was worse."

Tsosie remembers some of her neighbors moving away because "they got tired of the wind," which would slam open a hogan door and dance around the room like a drunken intruder.

Tsosie's family stayed, and she learned to talk to the wind.

"Holy People, shóó, shóó, why are you doing this to us?" she would pray. "Niyol, shóó, calm down!"

"It works," she declared. "You should try it."

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