Saharan Dust ashore on the Gulf Coast, expected in Middle Tennessee this weekend

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — This is what the sky looked like in New Orleans, Louisiana when people stepped out Thursday morning. The Saharan Dust had indeed made it ashore.

The sky in New Orleans Thursday morning. Picture by Adam Olivier

It traveled 5,000 miles from Africa across the Atlantic in the tropical easterlies over the last week, having been kicked up from the Saharan Desert floor by a strong tropical wave of low pressure.

This is not unusual. It happens almost every year and is a common sight for residents in the Caribbean. It occasionally reaches the U. S. Gulf Coast. Last year some made it into Texas.

Puerto Rico last weekend from Juan M. Rivera Melendez

But to make it all the way to Tennessee is unusual.

The National Weather Service’s Scott Unger explained:

“Every season, every year we will have the upper-level winds that will drag the dust, the sand across the Atlantic into the Caribbean, and sometimes it will affect the southeastern United States. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, it happens every year. This is just a little bit different in that it’s actually going to get a little bit further north this year than normal. We’re just looking at a pattern that the upper-level winds were a little bit stronger. The right circumstances are coming together where it can pull it a little bit further north into the Tennessee Valley for the weekend.”

So what might we expect? Some good, possibly some bad:

“This weekend, we might start see some of the effects of it here across Middle Tennessee, and really, it’s not a gigantic thing to be concerned about. The main thing you might see is some beautiful sunsets and some beautiful sunrises over the weekend. But some folks that do have asthma or other respiratory issues, could see an enhancement of those issues with probably a little bit lower and a little bit more poor air quality.”

It is possible that the dust may be as thick as it was in the Caribbean.

“We might end up in a situation where it is a little bit thicker to where we don’t get those fantastic sunrises and sunsets, where it might give us some poor visibility, maybe a little bit thicker. We’re just going to have to see how it plays out. It’s not something that we typically forecast here out of the office.”

That’s for sure. Another unusual circumstance for the year 2020!

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