Saharan Dust Storms in Portugal
Another new experience...
Earlier this week, we walked to our local train station to get a ride into Estoril to do some errands. As we walked down the sidewalk of our street, we noticed a haze in the sky. It reminded us of the atmospheric smoke we would often see in Arizona if there was a wildfire in the area (or even sometimes the smoke from California fires if the wind was blowing in the right direction). But since we don’t live in a wildfire region in Portugal (and yes, there are serious wildfires in this country), we were puzzled by the hazy sky.
Since we live near the ocean, we just assumed it was a funky fog, so we continued on with our day, finished our errands, and had a nice lunch on the outdoor patio at the Piccadilly Circus, where the sun was shining through the haze, which seemed to had somewhat lifted.
By mid-afternoon when we returned home, the sky started to look eerie again and we knew it had to be something more than a funky fog.
Not a Funky Fog
I honestly can’t say I have ever heard of this, but apparently some parts of Europe including Portugal, Spain and France experience a weather phenomenon known as North African Dust – a lot of dust from the Sahara Desert blowing throughout the sky. And if it happens to rain during this occurrence, there’s muddy, clay-like drops of water called Saharan ‘Clay Rain’. Makes for a messy weather situation (and very dirty cars and windows).
This weather typically occurs once or twice a year, usually in February or March, when a low-pressure system in North Africa causes desert dust particles to get carried into the atmosphere north to Europe. The weather event can last for 2-3 days.
Paul and I have experienced some serious and dangerous dust storms (haboobs) in Arizona during Monsoon season, with strong winds and rolling ‘waves’ of dust, but they come as quickly as they go.
‘Apocalyptic’ Storm Celia
The name of this week’s North African dust storm is Storm Celia. Celia’s strong winds ( I can hear the wind howling outside), are causing Spain to get the brunt of the dust, but Portugal is receiving its fair share of it as evidenced by looking out our (now dirty) condo windows. Some news organizations describe the storm conditions as ‘apocalyptic’.
People with respiratory issues have been advised to stay indoors. And if you must go outside, wearing a mask is recommended (and I would also advise wearing some type of eye protection). Although the dust particles themselves are not thought to be harmful (hmmm…how can they not be?), we decided to stay indoors until this stuff goes away.
I do feel badly for restaurants and tourist attractions that have already suffered from the economic effects of Covid, and of course, for anyone who decided to visit the Iberian Peninsula or are on a Portugal ‘scouting trip’ this week as much of the region has been affected by the storm. But the good news is that Celia is expected to clear by late Thursday, although particles of dust could remain in the atmosphere for up to 3 weeks.
Another new Portugal experience I thought I’d share!
Until next time…