LUBBOCK, Texas — Sunday’s dust storm was unlike anything the Hub City has seen in more than a decade. While many people are aware of how dust outdoors can impact your health, it’s important to know that indoor air pollution can be just as harmful.
“In West Texas, you can seal your windows and your doors really well, but sometimes with that kind of gusts, there’s just nothing you can do about it,” said Stephanie Henderson, general manager at Carpet Tech.
Wind speeds over 75 mph led to orange skies and a thick layer of dust covering everything in the storm’s path.
According to a recent study from the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor pollution levels may be two to five times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor levels.
“Whenever you’re seeing all that dust blowing and everything going on outside, that’s a good thing to remember that inside it could even be more polluted than that,” Henderson said. “Changing out those filters and getting your air ducts cleaned every three years is a great thing to be doing.”
Karin Ardon-Dryer is an atmospheric science professor at Texas Tech University. Based on visibility, she said what West Texans saw Sunday was categorized as an official dust storm.
“It was definitely an impressive event that lasted for 14 hours. Visibility dropped to below one kilometer for two hours, which is one of the longest ones I’ve seen in the last few years.”
Ardon-Dryer said multiple factors came together to cause the dust storm.
“We had a front that passed us that’s when the big wall of dust came,” Ardon-Dryer said. “Also, we haven’t had a lot of precipitation recently, so it’s been very dry. It’s also La Niña time, which is again dry conditions for our area which increases the chances of dust, so really everything aligned perfectly to cause this very, very strong dust storm.”
Over 11 years ago, a large and dense haboob swept across much of the South Plains bringing blowing dust and wind gusts equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane. Ardon-Dryer said Sunday’s storm was not a haboob.
“The 2011 one, the famous one, is what we call a haboob,” Ardon-Dryer said. “A haboob is a wall of dust. That one was convective, so it was a very short duration. I checked the visibility not long ago and it was half an hour or an hour.”
Ardon-Dryer believes this dust will be sticking around.
“I’ve heard experts saying that we might be leaning towards a new dust bowl event,” Ardon-Dryer said. “Whether that’s going to happen or not, we still don’t know, but it’s definitely leaning towards something that we have not seen yet for Lubbock.”
Dust in your home can be vacuumed up, but make sure to clean out the dust bin too so that dust that you’ve already picked up doesn’t end up back on your floor. Henderson recommended changing your air filters every couple of months and getting your air ducts cleaned every three to four years.