African dust creates haze, poorer air quality over Austin

Print
Email
|

by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on June 21, 2013 at 5:20 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 21 at 5:21 PM

AUSTIN -- The first day of summer often means more air quality warnings like orange alerts, but it's not just air pollution that can cause a haze to settle over the area. Right now the haze over the city is from dust that is all the way from Africa.

Austinites know enjoying the outdoors in Central Texas often comes with consequences.

"I'm going why do I have a cold all the time? Then I realized 'Oh no, I've got the allergies,'" said Austinite Vince Saporita.

This week it's something else in the air -- dust from the Saharan Desert.

"Here's the continent of Africa, and here's the dust indicated in yellow and orange," explained Meteorologist Albert Ramon in the KVUE Storm Center. "That dust is lofted about 15,000 feet and moved westward over the Atlantic and eventually ends up here in Texas."

Meteorologists say the high concentration covering Texas leads to poorer air quality, but from the ground, it's hard to tell.

"Besides pollen, the air quality in Austin is pretty good to me," observed Saporita.

Since the dust particles are thousands of feet in the air, most people won't notice a difference. It's those with severe respiratory issues who may feel symptoms.

"Dust, wherever it's coming from, coming from Africa, across the Atlantic, anything like that that will interfere with air quality can definitely make patients more symptomatic," said Dr. Allen Lieberman with The Allergy and Asthma Center of Austin.

Dr. Lieberman said people with respiratory issues may need to limit their time outside and remember to keep up with their medications

"People should be concerned," Dr. Lieberman claimed. "So the patients with the significant asthma, COPD, emphysema, those types of diseases really should monitor the air quality"

Ramon says it's nothing Central Texas hasn't seen before.

"Earlier this year we had agricultural fires burning in Central America and also Mexico. Smoke lifted to the North and allowed for just hazy sunshines, reduced air quality, and that's basically what we're going to see with this little bit of dust," Ramon explained.

Just in time for the summer solstice, that little bit of dust is expected to stick around throughout the weekend.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says they expect only moderate levels of African dust with minimal health concerns and it should be cleared out by Tuesday. They also say it might actually make for some beautiful sunsets.

Print
Email
|
 
News Video
More Video