Godzilla to attack Texas and Louisiana this weekend

Editor's note: Sorry folks, I just had to use this headline. 

As Covid-19 coronavirus cases continue to surge in Florida, Texas, and other Southern States, what would be a terrific thing to have right now? How about a “Godzilla” dust cloud?

Yep, 2020 is bringing to the Southeastern U.S. a massive dust cloud. This isn’t just the type of dust cloud that puffs up when you reach under your bed or open your copy of the book The Secret. It’s an unusually large cloud, nicknamed Godzilla because it’s potentially the largest such cloud in 50 years.

What’s unusually large? How about around 3,500 miles or 5,600 km long? That’s longer than a trip from Miami to Seattle, which is about 3,300 miles and a lot of vacuum cleaner bags placed end-to-end. Consider that the next time that you claim that something is unusually large.

Godzilla is not the cloud’s official name. It’s technically called the Saharan Air Layer because it’s a traveling layer of air with stuff originating from the Saharan Desert. Winds whipped up particulate matter from the Desert in North Africa, depositing it into the cloud, so to speak. This dust in the wind is a relatively regular (often yearly) occurrence. However, as indicated earlier, this time it’s hella big. 

Expect this ginormous cloud to do a “right hook” over a region stretching from Florida to Texas and up north into North Carolina through the middle of next week.

If you’re in this region and still not wearing face coverings, maybe a humungo dust cloud will change your mind?

Clearly, if given the choice of breathing in dust versus not breathing in dust, most people would choose the latter. Inhaling such particulate matter could end up irritating your nose, throat, and respiratory tract. In fact, such small-sized particulate matter could readily get all the way down to you lungs, causing coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. If you already have respiratory problems like asthma or emphysema, this could make things even worse. For example, those with asthma could be more likely to suffer asthma attacks. And those already with respiratory disease from Covid-19? Well, that may not be a good combo.

Plus, it could be a bit difficult distinguishing what’s going on should you develop respiratory symptoms this coming week. Could a new-onset of shortness of breath be due to a new Covid-19 coronavirus infection or breathing in the massive dust cloud that’s hanging above you? As you can imagine, things could get kind of confusing.

This stuff could get in your eyes too. so try to protect your eyes. After all, dust and eyeballs ain’t a great combination. Excessive tearing could be a sign that you are either being exposed to dust or watching the movie The Notebook.

So, if you’re in a location that will be having a dust up, this may be yet another reason to stay at home as much as you can. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is now urging people to stay at home because of the continuing spike in Covid-19 coronavirus cases. Maybe adding “and the gigantic dust cloud” may help convince people to follow the Governor’s recommendation. This may not be the best week to start Parkour for the first time.

Keep your windows and doors closed to prevent the particulate matter from entering. Otherwise, it would be like wearing underwear with giant holes in them, kind of defeating part of the purpose of staying at home. Running an air cleaner that has High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and ElectroStatic Precipitators (ESPs) could help filter out the particles if you have such a machine.

When you do go outside, beware of bringing dust back in with you. Covered in particulate matter is not a good look as the Peanuts character Pigpen has shown. Plus, it could eventually get in your eyes or respiratory system. So consider removing your clothes and taking a shower as soon as you get back inside. It’s usually a good idea to do it in that order.

Although “good news” and “dust cloud” are two sets of words that you rarely see together, the news is not all bad. As Jane Beitler described on the NASA Earth Data website, such a dust storm could actually suppress hurricanes. The dust storm contains super-dry air, which ain’t good for hurricane formation. It also brings a mid-level easterly jet of air that can tear apart a developing storm. The dust itself can prevent clouds from forming, acting like a big blanky that blocks moisture from rising to higher levels of the atmosphere.

You may not have had Godzilla dust cloud on your 2020 Bingo Card. But here we are. The massive traveling dust cloud could affect air quality, similar to the way air pollution would, but it’s not going to be a disaster. No need to start chanting, “Imhotep, Imhotep,” like they did in the movie The Mummy. So take a deep breath. Although while inhaling, make sure that you do what you can to not breath in this dust.

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