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Dust spotted on cars in Maryland, West Virginia

February 25th, 2023 by WCBC Radio

It wasn’t snow that coated a few cars in West Virginia and Maryland early Friday. According to media reports, satellite trends show it was dust. The same weather system that brought the dust to Western Maryland triggered record heat and pollen counts. The cold front that just moved through Washington earlier Friday had roots in the Southern Plains on Wednesday. The soil has been stripped of moisture in the Southern Plains, thanks to recent drought, so it has become rather dusty. A strong, southwest wind at 60 to 70 mph ahead of the front picked up dust particles in the Southern Plains on Wednesday. This dust was carried northeast ahead of the front and eventually ended up in the Ohio Valley and West Virginia on Thursday. The same concept applies to western wildfire smoke in the fall season. Oftentimes, if the smoke plume over a large western wildfire gets caught up in the jet stream, the sky appears milky in color for a few days in the D.C. area, despite high pressure and low humidity in place.

In this case, the mid-Atlantic and Western Maryland just happened to be right in the path of the incoming dust ahead of the front and it settled on cars when the winds lightened up a bit late Thursday and early Friday morning.

Smoke, on the other hand, remains suspended in the air, but if it’s dense enough, it can give off an odor.