Mystery dust blankets southeast Texas
Sunday, December 22, 2013
HOUSTON (KTRK) — We received hundreds of calls, emails, Facebook posts and tweets about your dirty cars on Sunday. Why were your cars dirty? A red dust was to blame, and we worked to track down the source and solve the mystery.
“It’s very strange to see all this red dirt on the cars, and I’ve seen on many cars in front of me,” Naveed Saqiab said while waiting in line at an area car wash.
Many folks tell us they woke up to find the mystery dust all over their cars this morning.
“It was weird; it looked like gold, brown, something, but I don’t know what it is,” J.C. Inestrosa said.
Lines at car washes across our viewing area were long Sunday as everyone rushed to wash off the dust. We went to one car wash near Rice Village and talked to a few people who were waiting.
“My car was so dirty and I had to come up here, but I was not expecting this. I was not expecting this,” Shantel Perkins said. “This is the first time I’ve really seen it this packed so coming up here I was pretty much shocked.”
“When I came up to here, I didn’t know what it was going to be like this,” Lawrence Danner said. “I’ve been to this car wash before, but it’s like a club scene. Everyone’s out here trying to get their car wash and everything.”
From Sugar Land to Spring, it seemed like everyone was talking about the mystery dust. Even on social media.
“I was on Twitter and they were talking about it on Twitter as well and social media, so I don’t know what it was, really,” Danner said.
Some folks tell us they think they know what it could be.
“Maybe dust. I don’t know. Maybe pollution? I don’t have any idea,” Carla Tello said.
“It’s just, like, mud from the construction and stuff,” another woman said.
Others say they may have even seen it before.
“Only when we have pollen coming from the trees, that’s what it looks like. But it’s just not the right time of year,” John Stone said.
Considering the time of year, perhaps Saqiab has the right idea and the answer to solve the mystery: “Maybe some sand from Santa,” he suggested. “Maybe that’s where it’s coming from.”
SO, WHAT WAS IT?
ABC13 Meteorologist Travis Herzog went looking for answers to the mysterious dust, beginning by identifying the top three theories of what it could be.
The first theory is that it’s cedar pollen that came in from the Texas Hill Country. The only problem with that is that the winds had not changed by the time you saw the dust on vehicles.
The second theory is that the dust blew in from West Texas. It does look like the sand and clay from there, but we had strong southwesterly winds over the past 24 hours until the front came through. Again, wrong direction.
The final theory is that it was mud showers from Mexico. And here’s the clue that will likely crack this one wide open: a tweet was sent out by the National Weather Service in Brownsville just a few days ago. They noted a very large dust and sand cloud originating from Mexico, just south of the border. The strong southwesterly winds we had Saturday could have transported the dust in this direction. And here’s the kicker: most people say it looked like a dirty or rusty rain. The rain showers in the past 24 hours have all come from the southwest where that dust cloud was observed.
Of course, we couldn’t be 100 percent sure unless we were to do a chemical analysis, but we believe we found the culprit: mud showers from Mexico.
Either way, it was certainly a car wash owner’s dream.