One of the most defining images of the great western’s that were made in Hollywood years ago is of the small railroad town gone silent, everyone indoors except for the hero and the villain and a lone tumbleweed that rolls across main street to signal to the viewer that there is no help to be found. Last week, Colorado was visited by a pack of tumbleweeds that have taken over neighborhoods and streets and are making a story of their own, something like a western gone wrong.
Tumbleweed is actually formed when the above ground section of a plant or bush is mature and dries up in the hot Midwestern climate and is discarded by its organism. Mostly, the tumbleweed is the entire organism except for the roots, but sometimes they can consist of what are called flower clusters.
The uncharacteristically high winds that have been blowing through neighborhoods south of Colorado Springs, CO are being blamed for this noticeable nuisance to neighborhood life and homeowner’s value. The tumbleweeds are collecting alongside people’s houses and are forming walls that block sideways and driveways in the area. Many residents have had to take to the streets with rakes and hoes to clear their land for travel. Some residents have even resorted to using snow plows to clear sections from their tumbleweed inhabitants.
One of the most serious problems faced by residents due to the tumbleweeds is that these clumps of dried vegetation pose a serious fire hazard as they are very dry, and in already dry conditions could catch on fire very easily.
Some residents of Colorado Springs that the tumbleweeds have made their way inside homes, as though this were some kind of sci-fi movie, and they are blocking people from leaving their homes because they are so thick in some locations.
The tumbleweeds can also pose a problem to drivers on the road as they can form lines in the street and if you have to run one over they can scratch cars and get caught underneath the hood where they will drag until they are dislodged. Local residents who enjoy running for exercise say that they have had to jump over collections of these weeds that stand over a foot tall.
“They can be huge, and they are really prickly,” said Mahkya Askew, a resident of Colorado Springs. He added that the town looks like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz and that when his relative from the East came to visit they laughed because it appeared to them to be like something, “like a Western movie.”
Colorado Springs residents, and those in neighborhoods to the south, will continue to monitor this problem and try to keep their land clear. They also have to make sure they do not leave too many open spaces unattended because these can quickly fill with tumbleweeds. One resident recounted a story where a neighbor left their garage door open and the garage became filled with these tumbleweeds.
By Nick Manai