WASHINGTON COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — What IS it? That was the question a lot of people in western Maryland and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia asked themselves (and other people) Thursday night into Friday after they found cars and other items outside coated in dust.
People were quick to share pictures and videos of the coatings on Facebook and other social media platforms. Some of the videos showed particles falling prior to landing on a variety of surfaces, although people overwhelmingly chose to share images of their coated cars.
Sherry Miller of Inwood, W.Va. said her husband saw something unusual in the driveway, grabbed his flashlight and saw dust falling from the sky.
“We had no idea what it was,” Miller said. “It looked like ash. I asked my husband if it was from our 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 want to know what the dust was.
Conversations about the dust and speculations about what it was seemed to appear all over the place. It was too warm for snow overnight, but something was certainly coating cars.
We reached out to Scott Bachmeier with the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) which blogged about blowing dust in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Bachmeier said that meteorologists were tracking the dust layer as it moved from the Great Plains over West Virginia. Bachmeier said “it’s all but certain that this dust layer eventually moved across the DC 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. Randy Lilly with the Berkeley County Office of Emergency Management said there are no reports of sickness or illness or emergency response calls.