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Downtown Houston is shown as a Saharan Dust cloud moves over parts of Texas, Friday, June 26, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Saharan dust cloud cloaks U.S. Gulf Coast in choking haze

What’s been called the most significant dust cloud in 50 years has now shrouded the U.S. Gulf Coast in a thick, dusty haze. The dust layer, which originated in the Sahara desert and drifted across the Atlantic, is forecast to continue moving north and east through the weekend, impacting areas from Texas and Florida all the way up to as far north as the Canadian border.

For most people, the dust will merely be a nuisance, but for many who have breathing issues the extra particulates in the atmosphere can cause complications. The timing couldn’t be much worse, considering that a recent Harvard study shows that long-term exposure to fine particles of pollution in the air, much like dust, may be linked to higher rates of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.

Currently the dust is thickest from Texas to Florida.

The dust is responsible for the dense haze shrouding Houston’s skyline in the photo above.

Most of the dust layer exists far above the surface — mostly between a few thousand feet above the surface to about 15,000 to 20,000 feet up. However, vertical mixing of the atmosphere and rainfall can bring that dust to the ground, and that’s when it can become harmful to people with respiratory issues.

Author: JEFF BERARDELLI, CBS News
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