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Saharan dust reaches Omaha area, making air unhealthy for some

Saharan dust reaches Omaha area, making air unhealthy for some

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The cloud of Saharan dust that has been making headlines for darkening skies in the Caribbean and southern U.S. arrived in Omaha on Sunday.

A haze hung over the city for much of the day, and Paul Fajman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said it was from the Saharan dust cloud. Southerly winds ushered the dust northward from Texas and the Caribbean, he said.

The cloud, the most extreme Saharan dust cloud on record, reached the U.S. last week after being carried 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Enough dust blanketed Omaha on Sunday to noticeably affect air quality, according to the AirNow Air Quality Index published by the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Sunday afternoon, the EPA ranked particulate matter (dust) in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa at 140, which is at the upper end of the range (101 to 150) considered unhealthy for those with lung and heart conditions. Anything above 150 is considered unhealthy for the general public. Those who were vulnerable to air pollution were advised to remain indoors Sunday and reduce outdoor physical exertion.

The dust is expected to diminish by Monday, according to Fajman and the EPA.

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Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Email: nancy.gaarder@owh.com

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