An tumbleweed storm reminiscent of the Dust Bowl has blocked buildings in southern Colorado and created barricades on roads and in irrigation canals.
The dry weeds, which The Associated Press called “an iconic symbol
of both the West’s rugged terrain and the rugged cowboys who helped settle it,” are symptomatic of the drought that began in 2010 and then hard freezes that snapped the plants off and set them rolling, the AP said.
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The plants are typically dried Russian thistle and kochia, both invasive plants from Eurasia, the AP noted.
Maintenance workers have tried to keep ahead of the tumbleweeds and clear roads, but said that as quickly as they clear them off, the wind rustles up and rolls more out.
People in subdivisions are working relentlessly to keep them away from their houses; the AP said firefighters had to cut through stacks of tumbleweeds surrounding the home of a pregnant woman so she would have a pathway out if she went into labor.
Typically cattle eat tumbleweeds, but the long drought forced many ranchers to either scale back or get rid of their herds.
The problem isn’t isolated to Colorado. In January, the small town of Clovis, N.M., became “buried” by tumbleweeds.
One woman told KRQE TV that the apartments and houses behind her were buried in tumbleweeds
, stacked as high as 8 feet tall.
Eddie Ward was trapped with his mother in one of the houses.
“Couldn’t get out of the garage,” Ward told KRQE. “It was sky-high. We couldn’t get out.”
Back in Colorado, cleanup isn't very easy.
“Gathering tumbleweeds is like gathering kindergarteners with a bunch of balloons and trying to keep them in one location," Russell Bennett, a county roadman, told the AP.
One Colorado county, El Paso, has spent $209,000 to rid themselves of the dried-out weeds.
“Try pushing them with heavy equipment and they just roll on you, fly over the top," Alf Randall, El Paso acting public works director, told the AP.
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