Saharan Dust Storm: Everything You Need to Know

Saharan Dust Storm: Everything You Need to Know

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The Sahara Desert may be nearly halfway around the world in the northernmost part of Africa, so you might think that it doesn’t directly affect you in any way. Don’t be fooled. It’s important to know about the Saharan Dust Storm: everything you need to know. It’s important to be prepared!

For thousands of years, the desert sands have had a significant impact on every creature and plant living over 6,000 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean in the Amazon rainforests of South America. 

Every year the migrating sandstorm and dust bring mineral deposits that help make life flourish there. Without the Sahara, life in these rainforests would not have looked the same. 

Saharan Dust Storm: Everything You Need to Know 

Sahara Desert Morocco

Most recently, the Saharan Desert has been unusually dry, even for a desert. You may have already seen or read about it in the news recently. Because of this, the heavy winds of Africa have lifted more dust into the atmosphere than what’s considered to be normal. Now, this is where it affects you and your family. Continue reading about the Saharan Dust Storm and everything that you need to know about it.       

How Does Saharan Dust Affect Weather?

As a country that doesn’t deal with dust storms very often, you may be wondering how this affects the weather. One of the effects the Saharan dust storm will have on the weather is increased vertical wind shear. There is also a chance for unfavorable cyclone development. You can get a closer look into how the Saharan Dust affects the weather by reading this article.  

How Long Will the Saharan Dust Storm Last?

Saharan Dust Storm: Everything You Need to Know

As the Saharan Dust Storm gets here, you may be wondering how long it will last. Well, experts think that this particular dust storm will last around 3-5 days. This air layer will form over the desert during early fall, later summer, and spring. This process happens every year. These pulses of warm dry air continue to cycle every 3-5 days. Read more on why the dust is blowing into the USA. 

Causes & Facts of the Saharan Dust 

You may be wondering what causes this Saharan Dust. It’s not complicated, but this dust is formed by a mixture of sand and dust from the Sahara Desert. 

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Saharan dust travels by convection, which means it reaches very high altitudes. From the high altitudes, the dust can be transported anywhere in the world. 

According to the New York Post, this Saharan dust storm is the biggest dust storm happening in 50 years

Health Concerns 

One of the biggest concerns of the Sahara Dust Storm is the health issues it may cause people. According to the New York Post, “Health officials warned that the weather event could weaken the respiratory systems of people battling COVID-19, along with some healthy people. They recommended that residents in the impacted areas stay inside.” 

Here is another reason why we need face masks in our preps. No debate here to decide what mask(s) work for people. By now, face masks are the normal (in most cases) to keep ourselves well and others around us as from getting sick. I know, I know, I have heard people say it’s my Constitutional Right to decide for myself if I want to wear a face mask. I don’t want any arguments, it’s not my style, and I won’t be bullied either. Enough said.

When someone is in an affected area of a dust storm, it can really affect the quality of the air they are breathing. If someone already has respiratory issues it can cause runny noses, coughing, and wheezing. Also, when breathing in dust over a long period of time, a person may experience prolonged breathing issues and even lung problems. Source 

Affect on Agriculture

Dust Storm over Agriculture

As crazy as it may sound, dust storms don’t just affect humans, they affect agriculture. In fact, dust can damage crops and even harm livestock. In past dust storms, the world has seen power failures, soil erosion, and can even cause the loss of the land’s nutrients. Source 

Other Issues with Dust Storms

Although most of us have not seen a true massive dust storm in our lives, they have dire consequences. One of the biggest concerns of a dust storm is visibility while driving. Airports may be forced to close and infrastructure can be damaged. It’s truly hard to predict what can happen during a dust storm, especially a large one.

If a dust storm is more local to where you live or a travel destination, the storm can be hard on your car. Once Mark and I were traveling from Southern Utah to Las Vegas to visit family. Just outside of Vegas we encountered a significant dust storm. We pulled over, but the winds were so strong the dust pitted the windshield and paint on our car. If you hear about a dust storm headed your way, get that vehicle inside the garage for protection.

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Due to the strength of many dust storms your home could be affected if you don’t have proper seals around doors and windows. If after a storm you see the dust on the floor and on window sills, that’s a sign it’s time to replace or upgrade the weatherstrips and other seals in your home.

How to be Safe in a Dust Storm

In this article about the Saharan Dust Storm: Everything you need to know, I wanted to touch base with how you can stay safe during a storm. During this dust storm, there are quite a few things you can do to remain safe. 

Pull Over

If you are driving and the dust storm hits, then you really have no other choice but to pull over. Dust storms are notorious for damaging your ability to see. So, don’t be shy about pulling over when you see a safe place to park and waiting for the storm to pass and for visibility to resume. Make sure you turn off your lights too because this can actually trick people into thinking you are driving. Also, make sure you pull over far enough and out of the travel lane. 

Pack an Emergency Kit

In 2020, you can never be prepared enough. One of the best things you can do is pack an emergency kit. A car emergency kit can have everything you need to be safe while traveling! Of course, I recommend packing a car emergency kit all the time, not just for Saharan Dust Storms. Source In case you missed my post on How To Make Your Own Emergency Car Kit

Stay Inside

Again, one of the best things you can do if you live in an impacted area is to stay inside. Not everyone knows how the Saharan Dust Storm will impact the USA. Keep in mind that this is one of the largest dust storms the USA has seen in 50 years. Source 

Also, listen to your local news and weather station. It’s important to be informed and realize the dust storm will affect various parts of the USA differently. 

Final Word

Try not to panic. I wanted to create the Saharan Dust Storm: everything you need to know guide, so you know what to expect. If you’re in an impacted area, stay inside and stay safe. We will all watch how this storm unfolds and affects the USA and the rest of the world. May God Bless this world, Linda. 

Copyright Images: Sahara Desert Morocco Deposit photos_185411884_s-2019, Horse in Dust Storm Deposit photos_32083419_s-2019, Sahara Desert Dust Storm AdobeStock_130056884 by DorSteffen, Dust storm in a field AdobeStock_269293748 by Katsiaryna

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  1. Great article, Linda. Thank you for the research and advice. This is a very significant dust issue.

    Here in NW Florida, we had heavy haze from the dust for 3 days. There was no blue sky to be seen…. just grey overcast everywhere. Yesterday, Friday, there was enough dust even at ground level to cause coughing, lung congestion and a scratchy sore throat. That dust also intensified the heat & humidity. … it literally was like walking into a sauna at times.

    Apparently the dust cloud is moving faster than we expected, as this morning, Saturday, we can see blue sky, white clouds and even sunshine. The air is fresh smelling. No coughing or scratchy sore throat from being outdoors. I believe there is a second cloud coming our way in another week.

    1. Hi BDN, thank you so much for commenting on this dust storm. I had heard it was going to be the worst one in 50 years so I thought I would write about it. Oh, my gosh, no blue sky to be seen! This is a crazy year for all of us, for sure. I sure hope you are staying safe and the dust storm doesn’t ruin your garden. It’s interesting to hear it intensified the heat and humidity, wow! I hope the second cloud is not worse. Hugs from Utah, Linda

  2. Came through today and it’s barely any worse than any other western Oklahoma day. Between it and the high level cloud cover it made it kinda nice mowing this morning. Kept that sun off me. I got enough yesterday at the range lol
    If y’all do get it bad make sure you blow out your vehicle air filters or just replace them.

  3. Thanks for the reminder on car filters, Matt! I had planned to change the filters for the house, wash the window screens and fanblades in the back porch/ laundry room & sweep the front porch & outside chairs once we’re in the clear.

    Glad to hear that the dust storm isn’t affecting Oklahoma! It’s a bit more of an issue all along the Gulf Coast. This afternoon we have heavy overcast and dusty haze again.

    1. No problem. How bad has it been? I did hear from some here with asthma that between it, the heat and humidity it’s bothered them.

    2. Hi Matt!
      There were definitely issues from the dust cloud! Anyone with sinus, asthma or other respiratory problems needed to stay inside. We wore masks two days anytime we had to go outside, even to just go to the mailbox or go feed critters. You could feel the dust in the air. Vehicles sure got a liberal coating of dust, too. We had to use the wash cycle on the windshields a couple of days.

      It was not awful. …. we knew that it was coming our way and all the local TV & radio stations had suggestions for what we needed to do to deal with the dust. We have a couple days of cleaner air before the second dust cloud arrives Wednesday this week.

  4. Linda:

    I wonder if the Sahara Dust storms had something to do with the dust storms in the US during the Great depression before WWII. We can be in a world of trouble if it happens again. Especially if we still have Covid 19

    1. Hi Jackie, that’s a good question. I guess the Saharan Dust Storms have been around forever. I just read that this year it would be worse than the last 50 years. So I thought I would let my readers know to be prepared for whatever hits their neighborhood. It certainly isn’t going to help with the COVID-19, I’m sure. We just need a break, some clean air, maybe some rain to clear out the junk in the air after it settles down, anyway. Stay safe, Linda

  5. Linda –
    Great advice. I grew up in Central Washington just east of the driest part of Washington State. When I was going to college during the 70s, driving to Spokane in the fall and spring resulted many times in driving through dust storms. And, yes, there were times when I had to pull over due to the dust.

    With the heavy irrigation now in Eastern Washington, you don’t see dust storms nearly as often. However, there are still some parts of the state that grow primarily wheat and other dry land grains so there the ground is dry as a bone (maybe drier!) and dust storms are common. Nothing on the order of a Saharan dust storm but still big enough to cause damage to cars, problems breathing, etc.

    I always have a kit in my car and I supplement it when I do go on a road trip! Now I have dust masks in the car as well as an extra engine air filter and cabin air filter. Be aware also that some (perhaps most newer) cars have cabin filters as well. If they get clogged, the air flow into the passenger area is severely restricted.

    1. Hi Leanne, between you and Matt we now know we need car/truck air filters in case of a dust storm, thank you! This year 2020 has been a doozy! Stay well, stay safe, Linda

  6. Great article on this dust storm. I live in Queen Creek, AZ And we get “monsoon” rain storms, preceded by a dust storm in July and August. When they hit and I am home, I usually try to turn off my air conditioning, electronics and anything that can be affected by these storms. We have microbursts during these times too. They are quite the show! Anyways, great advice and I’ll certainly remember about our car filters too. Thanks

    1. Hi Andie, I have been in a “monsoon” rainstorm once. Luckily I was in a house in Arizona, it was crazy! Stay safe and keep prepping. Great comment! Linda

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