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African Dust Could Mitigate Hurricane Activity


Sept. 9, 2005 –– While the Virgin Islands took on a gray haze thanks to the African dust blowing across the territory, meteorologist Orlando Bermudez at the National Weather Service in San Juan said it was actually good news.
"It's good to have for hurricane purposes," he said Friday.
He said that the African dust dries out the atmosphere at the mid-levels, which inhibits hurricane development, as it blows across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa.
"It has a big impact on how tropic waves develop," he said.
He said this wave of African dust should stick around till early Friday night when a tropical wave headed toward the Virgin Islands will send it on its way to the west.
Bermudez said residents should expect waves of African dust for the next few months. He said it started at around the same time hurricane season began on June 1.
And, he said he's seen more dust this year than any other year.
Bermudez said currently there are no weather systems out in the Atlantic Ocean to worry about.
While its impact on hurricanes is good news, people with allergies, asthma and sinus conditions are suffering.
"I'm being overbooked," Dr. Audria Thomas said.
An allergist with a private practice, Thomas is also the Health Department's district officer for St. Thomas and St. John.
She said people who have problems caused by the African dust should stay inside, use an air conditioner if possible and drink lots of water. Thomas said that drinking lots of water causes blood vessels to constrict, which lessens the outpouring of the histamines that cause allergic reactions.
She said that water thins the mucous of asthma patients, which makes it easier for them to expectorate.

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