Residents of the inland Northwest are cleaning wheat field dirt off their furniture. It's the fallout from an unusually large, desert-style dust storm that carried a wall of dirt across eastern Washington Sunday night.
In Spokane, air quality monitors that track particulates went from 30 micrograms to 6,000 in an hour's time.
Greg Koch of the National Weather Service says the eerie, dusty storm is known by a Middle Eastern term: “haboob.”
“To get a haboob, you need to have a clash between very hot air, very dry air and a pretty vigorous storm system," Koch explains. "We had that collision. And it happened at just the time of year where a lot of agricultural activity has worked the ground, so that dust was ready to blow in the dry wheat country.”
Sixty-mile-per-hour wind gusts knocked out power to several thousand people in eastern Washington. Schools in Moses Lake and Othello closed for the day.
A spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Ecology says these kinds of storms have become much less common in the region as more wheat farmers switch to a “no-till” method of seeding.
More thunderstorms are in the forecast this week. But the National Weather Service predicts they'll be of the cooler, wetter, dust-free variety the region is used to.
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