The 2020 census is doing a number on rural America. In places like Lordsburg, New Mexico, that could spell doom.

Tucked away in New Mexico’s bootheel, Lordsburg is the kind of town that hasn’t bustled in 50 years. It’s the birthplace of the state song “O Fair New Mexico” and the seat of Hidalgo County. It is also a potential ghost town, home to about 2,800 residents. Its population has been dwindling for decades. Getting an accurate count in the 2020 U.S. Census will help keep the town alive, residents say.

State remains silent on lead poisoning data

In December, Reuters published a map on childhood lead poisoning across the nation. The story and accompanying map, “Off the Charts: The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than Flint,” looked at where children were tested for lead and how many had high levels of the metal in their blood. Severe lead poisoning can lead to seizures, coma and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For children, there is no such thing as a safe exposure to lead, which causes permanent neurological damage and behavioral disorders. Even though lead paint and lead additive in gasoline were banned decades ago, the ongoing Flint, Michigan emergency highlighted that lead poisoning is still a problem in the United States.

Respect the dust storm

If you were in New Mexico this week, chances are good you felt the wrath of the state’s spring winds. In Albuquerque, the Sandia Mountains disappeared behind clouds of dust, pollen, and tumbleweeds, as city officials alerted people to stay inside and avoid breathing the dust. And in southern New Mexico, officials also worried about how dust storms might reduce visibility for  drivers trying to traverse roads near Lordsburg. Looking over the past decade, Kerry Jones, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Albuquerque points out that there was a significant jump in the number of dust storms occurring during years of extreme and exceptional drought. “Therefore, one could infer that with worsening drought comes more dust,” he says, with a note of caution: “But it’s complicated.”

Dust storms are getting more respect these days.