FOB Apache is located in a high mountain desert in south eastern Afghanistan, near Qalat in the Zabul province. The climate is said to be very similar to areas of New Mexico with similar elevation and topography. It isn’t what I was expecting – climate or topography wise.
In my mind, Afghanistan was nothing but mountains and desert; sand & rock. I have discovered that it is exactly that – in some areas and nothing like that in others. Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity to experience anything but mountains and sand, because that is pretty much all of Zabul.
However, the sand is not like the sandy deserts that I was expecting; it is really more like dry clay. It gets really hard with a layer of ‘moon dust’ covering it. There is very little vegetation, and the wind seems to always blow, so it is always very hazy. The nice thing about the wind is it seems to make the temperatures more bearable. So I will take the dust.
I was here for a few weeks last May and it was extremely hot, the high temps were in the triple digits. I think the high temp I experienced during that time was ~113 degrees Fahrenheit. But that was at KAF, which is about 2000 feet lower in elevation. The temperatures were about 10 degrees cooler here on Apache. It is very hot, but with the low humidity it is not too bad.
I assumed it stayed pretty warm year round. When I got here in the middle of October the weather was great. The highs were in the 70’s, the lows in the 60’s. To me that is almost ideal, so I was really happy with the weather. The team we replaced said it did get below freezing in the winter, but they didn’t have any measurable, lasting snow on Apache. So that is what I expected – a cool, but not cold, snowless winter.
It cooled down in November and December with the overnight lows in the 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s during the day. In my opinion it was pretty decent conditions and was expecting it to start warming up in January/February. Mid-January we received a forecast of a significant snowfall. I didn’t believe it and thought that if we did get snow, it couldn’t possibly be the 15-18 inches forecasted and what little did fall would melt quickly. After all, I had been told that the previous team had no measurable snow the year before.
Imagine my surprise when it actually started snowing, right on schedule based on the forecast…it snowed a lot…we got every inch of the 15-18 inches predicted. It started late in the afternoon & we had an inch or so by the time I went to bed. When I woke up the next morning I had to make the trek to the bathroom through knee-deep snow…wearing a t-shirt, shorts & crocs. That certainly was an eye-opener!
It snowed of & on for several days, leaving us with a couple feet of snow on the ground. Shortly after it stopped snowing, the sun came out and the snow turned into mucky slush. Just one more awesome, unique way to experience Afghanistan – walking through ankle deep muddy slush to go take a shower. Yippee!
Just as the snow and mud was nearly gone, the cycle started again. The weather lasted like this for the rest of January and all of February. By March, all of our snow was gone. So from the standpoint of comparing it to a typical Minnesota winter, it was extremely short-lived. But I tell you, walking through snow & slush in crocs to take a shower gets old very quickly!
FOB Bullard, in the Shah Joy District of Zabul province is a bit further north & about 100 feet higher. They received a lot more snow than Apache. In fact, I was up there for about a week in February and we received an overnight snowfall of nearly two feet and this was on top of the several feet they had already received.
The temps have rapidly warmed up to the point where it is too hot for me. It has been in the upper 70’s for the last few days…I’m not a big fan of anything over 75. I expect it will hit the triple digits by the end of the month and will be that way for the rest of my time here…yuck!
I have included a few pictures of the snow on FOB Apache.
Thanks for reading!