The Heat Is Online

Sahara Storm Covers South Texas With Desert Dust

Dust in Texas is from Sahara, June 28, 2001

Residents are shaking their heads, breathing better air and cleaning their property today after a massive cloud of dust unexpectedly descended on South Texas.

"It's pretty dusty," said Marco Bazan, of McAllen, Texas. "Our cars look like they haven't been washed in a couple of weeks."

Bazan was one of the many South Texas residents caught off guard by the arrival of the mysterious and ominous cloud late Tuesday afternoon.

"It was creepy looking. It looked like a really dreary wintry day in the middle of summer," Bazan reported. "It looked like smoke residue, like something was burned. It was pretty nasty."

Bazan said the sky suddenly turned yellow and gray, bewildering students at a local university.

"Everyone was sitting around and freaked out about it. No one knew what was going on," he said. "Then someone came in and said they heard it was a dust cloud."

Driving around late Tuesday afternoon, Bazan said visibility in some spots was as low as 20 feet.

According to Bazan, the wind was so strong that a heavy outdoor wrought iron table was blown over into a nearby swimming pool. In the open fields sprinkled throughout McAllen, Bazan said he could see little dust clouds everywhere.

"It just was really, really weird weather," he said.

Using satellite technology, forecasters ascertained that the cloud originated from a sandstorm in the Sahara Desert.

"We used to get a haze off the Gulf [of Mexico], and people would call it the Gulf Haze. Nobody was sure where it was coming from," said Ron Wells, a Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission meteorologist. "Now we know what one of the causes is."

Air currents can float smoke, ash, and sand from as far away as the Sahara Desert, explained Skip Ely, a National Weather Service Meteorologist. Such clouds have been known to travel halfway around the world at an altitude of 10,000 to 12,000 feet.

The dust is expected to move into North Texas by Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.