Friday, October 19, 2012

Dust Storm Blows Eastward from Oklahoma


I thought I had seen every kind of weather where I live in Tennessee, from drought to blizzards to tornadoes to remnants of hurricanes. Did I mention hailstorms, straight-line-wind and downbursts? Yes, I thought I had experienced everything Mother Nature had to throw at us, even an occasional flood, earthquake, landslide, and sinkhole.

So imagine my surprise when my local forecast surprised me.

Today it says: Blowing Dust.
And you can see it on the radar (screencap below) as sort of muddy-looking streaks blowing up from Alabama - surreal. Outdoors, it only appears as a haze over everything. Usually a windy day in October would be nice and clear with blue skies and long-distance visibility. Not today.

My mother grew up in Kansas and told us what it was like during the Dust Bowl of the 30s, when they had to wear rags over their faces to walk to school, and blocked cracks around the windows to try and keep the dirt out. This is nothing compared to that, of course. And when I was a kid, Chattanooga had such bad air pollution that it was hazy for months at a time, so we've come a long way.

But the fact that the drought in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska is so horrible that eroded dirt is blowing across the country again is disturbing. It wasn't supposed to happen again, and the fact it coincides with the Great Recession is really something to think about in terms of history repeating itself.




From the Chattanoogan
Kathy Robertson of the Air Pollution Control Bureau said, "We started getting calls about 10 o'clock this morning. By 12 or 12:30 when people were getting out for lunch, our phones were ringing off the hooks."

She said at first it was thought to be a woods fire, "but we didn't smell smoke and the haze was a different color."

Ms. Robertson said she eventually found reports of the dust storm that hit the Midwest and knew that it had arrived here.

It started as a beautiful clear day, but around mid-morning it began to get difficult to see Lookout Mountain or Missionary Ridge from downtown.

Ms. Robertson said it was the same situation in places like Fort Payne, Dalton and Cleveland. "I got a call saying it was even worse in Knoxville."

However, she said local air quality readings remained good. She said the dust should not be a health factor except for those who are sensitive to dust.

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