WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — “What is it?” That’s what residents of western Maryland and eastern West Virginia asked themselves Friday morning when they found their cars and other things outside coated in dust.
People were quick to share pictures and videos of the coatings on social media. Some only captured the aftermath, while others saw the particles floating down from the sky.
Sherry Miller of Inwood, West Virginia, said her husband saw something unusual in the driveway, grabbed his flashlight and saw the dust falling. It was too warm for snow overnight, but something was coating cars.
“We had no idea what it was,” Miller said. “It looked like ash. I asked my husband if it was from the wood stove and he said, ‘No, it’s all over Berkeley County.'”
Jennifer Swisher with the Berkeley County Emergency Communications office said they received about a dozen calls from people wanting to know what the dust was.
Scott Bachmeier, with the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), said meteorologists were tracking blowing dust in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. The dust layer moved from the Great Plains over to West Virginia.
Bachmeier said “it’s all but certain that this dust layer eventually moved across the D.C. area a few hours later.”
“This is likely dust from the desert southwest, a very strong storm system causing all the wintry weather across the northern U.S. and severe weather in the southern U.S.,” said DC News Now meteorologist Damon Matson. “It picked up the dust on the back side of the storm and dragged it across the country. The dust remained elevated in the atmosphere as the storm remained strong.”
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection collected samples of the fallen dust.
Randy Lilly with the Berkeley County Office of Emergency Management said there were no reports of related sickness or emergency response calls.