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How deadly are dust storms?

When strong winds or gust fronts pick up fine particles and dirt, a thick wall of dust can result, moving over land and across the water, leaving destruction in its wake. These dust storms often form quickly, making preparation difficult. Having disaster recovery services in place before there is a catastrophe can mitigate operational, financial and human risk.

Destructive Results

Sand or dust storms can be annoying or devastating depending on their scale. Dust devils swirl for a few moments and fine particles, get in the eyes, nose and hair, then passes. However, when the black blizzards known as haboobs sweep through an area or a sirocco’s pre-frontal winds descend, which last anywhere from hours to days, there are can be severe repercussions.

  • Health issues arise when fine-grained soil and dust are inhaled. Respiratory problems range from asthma attacks to lung irritation, coughing and wheezing. Over time these issues can develop into chronic infections. A toxic blend of chemicals, bacteria, pollutants and fungi carried by the wind can lead to eye disease and cardiovascular concerns. Many veterans from Operation Desert storm suffer from the results of being caught in dust storms.
  • Winds reduce visibility, damage buildings, and bring down trees. Downbursts bring intense downward air movement which can cause buildings to collapse and push vehicles off the road. If accompanied by thunderstorms, the damage is increased when a sudden deluge of rain causes flash flooding.
  • Agricultural impacts from sandstorms can devastate regional economies for months to years. Organic, nutrient-rich particles are lighter than other sediment. High winds can strip an area of this beneficial organic matter, reducing the number of crops harvested and damaging young plants. Livestock left in the open or in poorly covered areas can suffocate, wiping out entire herds in hours.

Mitigating Risk

Although dust storms are a natural occurrence, desertification is increasingly caused by human activity. Meteorological station equipment can help mitigate the risk for those who live in a storm’s path. Visit EarthNetworks.com for information on how they help mitigate weather-related risk.

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