News

Large mud cloud cowl from the Sahara in Puerto Rico

Reports from the island are published on social media:

x

Sahara Dust on the way here to Puerto Rico. It's the biggest wave we've ever gotten. A common phenomenon here, but never in this size. Dangerous for asthmatics and people with respiratory diseases. https://t.co/xX8xLsmN3c

 € “JO Boriken (@joboriken) June 21, 2020

When I saw the following headline from The Guardian, I wanted to give them a correction note – the dust has already arrived in the United States since Puerto Rico is part of the United States but not part of the mainland.

"Godzilla dust cloud" from Sahara covers the Caribbean on the way to the USA:

Extremely cloudy conditions and restricted visibility have been reported from Antigua to Trinidad and Tobago. The event is expected to last until late Tuesday. Some people posted double-masked pictures of themselves on social media to ward off the coronavirus and dust, while others joked that the Caribbean looked like it had received a yellow filter film treatment.

José Alamo, a U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said the worst days for the U.S. territory were Monday and Tuesday when the cloud headed toward the U.S. southeast coast. The main international airport in San Juan reported only 8 km of visibility. The mass of extremely dry and dusty air is known as the Sahara Air Layer and forms over the Sahara. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it moves every three to five days in the late spring to early autumn over the North Atlantic and reaches its peak in late June to mid-August. The layer can be 3 km thick, the agency said.

What is extremely worrying is the question of how this dust cloud affects asthmatics on the island.

Public health officials and researchers have been studying high asthma rates for Puerto Rican people for many years. As Nicholas Weiler in "Respiratory infections can increase the high asthma burden in Puerto Rico ":

Puerto Rican people have the world's highest asthma rates, with the disease affecting approximately 14.2 percent of Puerto Rican people at some point in their lives. In contrast, 9.6 percent of African Americans, 8.2 percent of non-Hispanic whites, and 4.8 percent of Mexicans report having asthma at some point in their lives, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Puerto Ricans die four times more often than non-Hispanic whites.

The Sahara dust cloud will continue to move in a few days, but I'm sitting here wondering what lasting damage to life, lung, and health in Puerto Rico will do.

Given Trump and his henchmen's lack of support for Puerto Rico, I seriously doubt that aid is on its way from Washington.

Related Articles