Huge Saharan dust storm covers Spain, reaches France, and Portugal

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For a second straight day, a huge dust storm swirling over Europe from the Sahara desert made it hard to breathe in large parts of Spain and gave cleaning crews extra work in France and Portugal to remove the film of dirt from cars and buildings.

The European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service said Wednesday it was tracking the large mass of dust that has “degraded air quality across large parts of Spain, Portugal and France.”

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While Spain is bearing the brunt of the storm, dust was flung far beyond, dumping ochre-colored blobs on cars in Paris after mixing with falling rain and coating Lisbon’s buildings with a fine powder.

Spain’s national weather service said that the particles could reach as far north as the Netherlands and western Germany.

The area of Spain rated by its national air quality index as “extremely unfavorable” — its worst rating — expanded from the start of the dust event on Tuesday to include most of the nation’s southern and central regions, including Madrid and other major cities like Seville.

Authorities recommended for people to wear face masks — still in wide use because of the pandemic — and avoid outdoor exercise, especially for those people suffering respiratory diseases.

Madrid’s sky remained tinged a dirty gray, with visibility reduced for a large swath of the country. Municipal cleaners swept up the dust from city streets. Curious photos of the dust popped up on social media, including images of red-tinged snow on a mountain range near Madrid.

In Spain’s south, the dust mixed with rain to produce mud.

Rubén del Campo, spokesman for Spain’s weather service, said that largest quantities of air-born dust will accumulate on Wednesday afternoon in Spain’s southeast and central regions.

“The air will then begin to clear little by little, although some floating dust will reach the Canary Islands (in the Atlantic Ocean) over the weekend,” Del Campo said.

To the relief of farmers, the storm front that pulled in the African dust is also forecast to bring more rain over the coming days to Spain’s parched fields and descending reservoirs.

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