Thursday, March 3, 2011

When thundersnow isn't cool

Compared to last year, winter in Kabul 2011 has been...wintry. We've had lots of snowy days, although accumulation has been pretty scarce. We did get one good snowstorm a few weeks ago, with some pretty decent accumulation building overnight. And then somewhat warmer temperatures the next day, which turned Kabul into a giant pit of mud. Of course that did happen to be the day that I went to visit Turquoise Mountain's new facilities. I was very glad I wore my Timberlands!

The wintry weather continues, even as we roll into March. Today we experienced the exciting meteorological phenomenon of thundersnow. Now, thundersnow is usually cool. It's freaky. I mean, snow happens when it's cold outside. Thunder happens when it's hot. By all reasonable logic, the two should NOT happen together.

The only time that thundersnow is not cool is when you're in a war zone, and you don't happen to see the flash.

I don't usually talk about this stuff on the blog because I don't want to worry any of our friends or family. But Kabul has been a, unstable recently. Suicide bombers attacked a local grocery store popular with expats on January 28. Friends of ours were there 15 minutes before the attack. There was an attack on the Safi Landmark Hotel -- the second in a year -- on February 14. And last Saturday we were woken up at 6:30AM by three rocket attacks and a 15 minute Duck & Cover alarm. The rockets didn't hit close to the Embassy; luckily the bad guys don't really have the ability to aim. But they were close enough to make a loud boom, and it was a rather rude awakening.

So it's easy to understand why everyone has been a little jumpier than usual. The thundersnow strike that spooked everyone hit very close by. There was only about 1 second pause between the flash and the boom. And given that it was daylight, the flash wasn't easy to see. When the thunder hit, a lot of people jumped and held their breath for the alarm.

Our movements off compound have been restricted -- meetings are ok, but dinners meetings out at night are hard to come by. I understand why, and although I'm going a little stir crazy I can know the RSO has to put safety first. What gets me really worked up with worry are my Afghan colleagues who travel from their homes to the Embassy every day. Suicide attackers like to strike during the morning and afternoon commutes, when the streets are at their busiest. There are a few expats out and about at those times. But the majority of the people on the street -- and therefore the majority of the victims -- are Afghan. I worry it's only a matter of time before one of our FSNs -- out on their daily commute or running errands or taking their children out for the afternoon -- ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And on that cheerful conclusion: Thundersnow = cool. Thundersnow in a city that's seen a few bombings in recent weeks = not cool.

And being an FSN = your safety and the safety of your families are always in my thoughts.

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