Residents of multiple states were baffled Thursday as dust coated vehicles and, in Connecticut, an unusual smell was noticeable.
With nerves on edge due to the train derailment and subsequent chemical burn-off in East Palestine, Ohio, that led to multiple claims of illnesses from whatever was in the air, the question was no laughing matter.
“WHAT IS FALLING FROM THE CLEAR SKY? I’ve just been informed from West Virginia to Carroll County MD there seems to be White ASH falling,” meteorologist Justin Berk posted Thursday on Facebook as the hunt for an explanation began.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said in a Friday release it was taking seriously reports of “dust across multiple counties in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle.”
“The WVDEP received reports late Thursday night about the dust and mobilized inspectors to the area to collect samples and identify potential sources. No obvious sources have been identified at this time,” the release said.
🚨#BREAKING Multiple reports of unknown White dust / Particles falling out of the sky ⁰⁰📌#WestVirginia | #Maryland ⁰⁰Currently Multiple people across West Virginia into Maryland area are reporting a (unknown white dust/film descending from the sky. Some local fire… https://t.co/k8MRFgtHXf pic.twitter.com/BBwIX5W80t
— R A W S A L E R T S (@rawsalerts) February 24, 2023
It turned out that the mysterious substance was hand-me-down dust from farther west.
“The STUFF that fell over our region Thursday night was likely from New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. This was noticed in West Virginia, Central Maryland, and even into New England,” Berk wrote on Facebook.
Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan offered his own explanation for the dust on Facebook.
“The dust/residue on cars this morning has a pretty logical explanation and that’s dust kicked up from a dust storm in the plains a few days ago,” he said.
🚨#UPDATE: Mystery solved! The weird white particles that fell from the sky in West Virginia and Maryland are likely from a massive dust storm that hit New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma yesterday. #MysterySolved #DustStorm #WestVirginia #Maryland #WeatherUpdate #BREAKING pic.twitter.com/ivpEFdDLCV
— Catalyst for Change (@ChangeLabHQ) February 24, 2023
“As for the chemical smell (chlorine-like?) this morning I don’t have an explanation for that. I did smell it this morning here in West Hartford and it was pretty strong. It seems unlikely that it’s from the train derailment and fire in Ohio last week, however, as it would have dispersed quite a bit in the last 10 days,” he said.
Hanrahan later scolded a commenter who blamed the toxic train derailment in Ohio.
“Stop scaring people. I spoke with a few experts today who specialize in air quality and pollution and the overwhelming consensus is that this is unrelated to the train derailment. There’s no conspiracy theory here,” he wrote.
According to CBS News, satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association showed dust from New Mexico and Texas traveling through Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky.
The Maryland Department of the Environment offered the same explanation, adding that a change in the winds had since blown the dust away.
Bill Deger of AccuWeather, who noted the dust even reached Philadelphia, said there was even an upside to the phenomenon, according to MetroNews.
The dust made sunsets even more photogenic.
“When you have a lot of airborne particles like dust or like smoke or ash, it can make the sunsets and sunrises appear more vibrant and that’s what people have been noticing lately because the light is scattered more in the atmosphere when you have these particles aloft,” he said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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