February 12, 2015

Dust in the forecast

Who said Israel had enough problems?

Tuesday night, the wind was howling so ferociously, we decided to close all the shutters in the apartment, clamming ourselves in like oysters. Still it whistled and clamored, finding cracks to enter and buffeting the curtains.

Looking at my iphone, I saw the strangest four-letter word forecast. There were no delicate snowflakes, dewy raindrops or beaming suns on the screen. Just a visual fog and the words DUST.

Dust is ‘weather’?

The next morning, I woke up to a yellowish sky and could barely see the next block of buildings.  The wind was still angry, trying to dislodge a pergola from our roof like an impatient dentist yanking at a tooth.

As I ventured outside to walk my dog, the world was eerily silent. I passed a woman walking two huskies, moving very briskly. She was wearing a surgical facemask and looked less friendly than her growling canines.  The cars on the road were covered in a fine reddish dust. Every single leaf on every plant was coated in a dusty film.
Soldiers on duty in dusty conditions.

I had grit in my teeth and felt as if I were breathing in powder.

What was this? 

I came back to the apartment and looked around closely. While we were sleeping, the insolent wind had brought in buckets of dust and had scattered it all over the apartment like a delinquent Jack Frost. It was even inside the washing machine drum.
Washing machine

What was this?

According to NASA, a cyclone in the Atlas Mountains cooked up a massive sand storm, covering the Middle East in a powdery film of grit. I looked at my geography book and located the Atlas Mountains in southwestern Morocco. Just south of the range is the huge Sahara Desert.

My dining room table.
From the sub Sahara to my living room; that is one far journey. How did it do that?

I then learned that a deep depression had formed over the eastern Mediterranean, creating a superhighway for Saharan dust to travel to my living room. A sort of one-way, non-stop flight.

Thanks Sahara. Guess who has to clean this mess?
The combination of howling winds and dust created many problems outside of my dusty apartment. The measure of PM (particles with a diameter of 10 microns) was forty times the regular readings. This was dangerous weather for those with asthma, heart conditions and allergies.  The young and the elderly were urged to stay indoors.

Dust? It is serious weather. When I next see this four-letter forecast on my iphone, I will cover my apartment with bed sheets, stock up on Pledge wood cleaner and lay low.

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