Saharan dust visits the Gulf Coast

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–If you’ve noticed the sky is hazier than usual, you’re not just seeing things. A massive plume of Saharan dust has made it’s way to the Southeastern United States, turning blue skies into a milky haze. This event is leaving many to wonder ‘what exactly is Saharan dust?’.

Each year, the Saharan dust cloud travels more than 4,000 miles across the Atlantic from Africa.

“In particular, we usually see at least one, maybe 2 dust outbreaks per year that make it to the United States,” said WMBB Chief Meteorologist Ross Whitley.

The Saharan dust whitens the sky during daylight hours and can also cause redder sunsets.

“This is that dust cloud that originated over the Saharan area desert and then came across thanks to the trade winds into our area,” said Whitley.

While Whitley says the dust doesn’t leave too much of an impact, it may affect those prone to allergies.

“Mainly if you have underlying allergies, your sinus will act up, the coughing will increase, asthma. You may get shortness of breath,” said Dr. Marwan Obid, a Panama City doctor.

If you’re prone to allergies, Dr. Obid recommends limiting your time outside.

The dust plume also brings benefits to our area, like phosphorus, iron, and nitrogen.

“It acts as a natural fertilizer as well so even plants overland will benefit from having Saharan dust,” said Whitley.

The Saharan dust will be in our area for the next several days and should diffuse by next week.

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