African dust cloud returns to Houston skies this weekend

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African dust season is upon us in Houston, and ABC13 Chief Meteorologist Travis Herzog said this year’s first dust cloud from the Sahara Desert will reach the Houston area this weekend.

The thickest part of this cloud blows into Houston on Saturday, June 15. Residents will see a “Saharan sunset” that evening and will wake up to more haze on Father’s Day.

Most will just notice a change to the color of the sky, but residents who noticed any health effects during dust clouds last summer may consider reducing their outdoor exposure over the weekend.

The dust will start thinning out during the afternoon of Sunday, June 16 as scattered afternoon downpours pop up in Southeast Texas.

What does it mean for you?

Herzog said most of these fine dust particles will stay suspended thousands of feet above ground, turning the sky a hazy gray. For most people, that is the only difference they will notice, but some may encounter respiratory issues.

A portion of this microscopic dust, known as particulate matter, does reach the ground and can penetrate deep into the lungs. Studies have shown chemical contaminants and microorganisms can also survive the trek across the Atlantic, but few studies have been conducted on the effects to human health, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sensitive individuals with asthma, allergies and other lung conditions may notice flare-ups, especially after prolonged outdoor exposure. Other sensitive groups include the elderly, young children and pets.

There is a seasonal cycle to when African dust clouds can reach Houston. Herzog said they normally track through our sky in May, June and July.

The good news about the dust clouds? They typically prevent hurricanes from developing.

From ABC13

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