Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pale Monday Sunrise

This is it – slightly better than yesterday, when we couldn’t see the sun at all, but the small, continuing headache tells me this is a sandstorm, ongoing. When you are in the middle of it (for those of you not here) one day seems endless, two days seems more than you can bear. The very air you breathe feels heavy. I tell myself it is a mist, but my sneezing and itchy eyes tell me otherwise.


We call it sandstorm, but I know what sandstorm is like – in Qatar, a sandstorm has SAND, it abrades your face, it piles up in the roads, it is very sandy sand, an English Patient kind of sandstorm. Here, it is sand the size of dust and grit. Your face feels dry and tight and gritty, there are no piles in your house, but your feet leave tracks across the thin layer of dust, so tiny it seeps through sealed windows and the bathroom exhaust fans.

In the midst of a sandstorm, Count Almasy explain the different kinds of storms:

This is from library.thinkquest and is short and sweet and explains the differences:

“In a few minutes there will be no stars. The air is filling with sand.”

Dust storms are common in arid regions.They are not to be confused to be sandstorms. A true desert sandstorms is a low cloud of moving sand that rises usually only a few centimetres and at most two metres above the ground. Above this level the air is almost entirely free of sand. Sandstorm consists of sand particles driven by a strong wind. It is rarer in occurrence.

Where winds are exceptionally strong and large quantities of loose soil are available, dust storms may develop. These can reduce surface visibilities to only a few metres. Normally only silt and clay particles are carried in suspension by the wind.
A dust storm approaches as a dark cloud extending from the ground surface to heights of several kilometres. It can take the form of an advancing wall or a whirlwind and are usually short lasting, although some storms of up to 12 hours have been recorded.

Within the dust cloud, there is deep gloom or even total darkness as the sun is blot out. A large dust storm can carry more than 100 metric tons of dust – enough to make a hill 30m high and 3km across the base. Dust from a single dust storm is often traceable as far as 4000 km. After a particularly violent storm in Algeria in 1947, red desert dust, mixed with snow, turned parts of the Swiss Alps pink.

The onset of dust storms is sometimes marked by an increase in respiratory infections and germs borne by the dust particles appear to be responsible for outbreaks of cerebral spinal meningitis.

February 23, 2009 - Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather


  1. My friends and family back home have trouble understanding dust storms as opposed to sand storms. We went camping on near a beach in Florida and were pelted with a sandstorm. – it got into the bedding, into the food, everything. The sand ground in our teeth when we ate – it was horrible. I have told them to compare that to the puff of “dust” a container of baby powder makes when you set it down and then imagine that puff of dust big enough to cover the entire state.

    My brother is a lawyer specializing in negligent injuries so he gets very involved in medical research. He was quiet surprised that the Middle East countries don’t have more respiratory disease as a result of the dust storms.

    I did a little research and found that their incidence rate for respiratory disease is actually better than most industrialized areas. The health experts theorize that the particles of dust that is carried in the storms has had the rough abrasive edges worn off and so they don’t irritate and damage the internal organs as much as do other pollutants.

    Being a childhood asthmatic and from a family history of emphysema that was certainly good news for me!

    Comment by Ken | February 24, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’m surprised, too, Ken at statistics showing there isn’t more respiratory problems in Kuwait, and I have a strong suspicion that the problem is with the statistics. The clinics here are mobbed with people suffering allergies and athsma. It’s in the papers. But it may relate more to pollution related to oil processing than to dust storms, I don’t know. Are you suffering at all with the current weather?

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 24, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thanks for the interesting article – I fear you may be right Intlx about the pollution related to oil processing and the increase of thousands of cars a year leading to this LA-like smog.

    Comment by hilaliya | February 26, 2009 | Reply

  4. I see it every morning, as the sun rises, Amer. The sun has to get a couple inches above the horizon before it breaks through. I always blame it on Iranian oil processing – it IS in the East – but I suspect it is a Gulf problem altogether.

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 26, 2009 | Reply

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