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African Dust Follows Wave Across the Atlantic

Aug. 30, 2005 –– Dust blowing across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa coupled with ash coming from the Montserrat volcano have blanketed the territory with a dusty haze.
"A wave went through yesterday. Behind the wave comes dust," Ernesto Morales, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan, said Tuesday.
He said the remnants of Tropical Depression 13, which dissipated into a wave Monday, will bring showers and thunderstorms Tuesday night into Wednesday.
"This will clean up the air," he said.
Morales said the Montserrat volcano has not gone off again, but continues to sporadically emit ash.
Dr. Audria Thomas, the Health Department's district officer for St. Thomas and St. John, said the dust problem is particularly acute for people with nose and eye allergies, asthma and emphysema.
She said those people 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 with asthma patients, water thins the mucous, making it easier to expectorate.
Ginger Garrison at the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Petersburg, Fla., has studied African dust. She was previously stationed at the agency's St. John office.
Garrison she said studies have shown that pesticides are making their way across the Atlantic with the African dust.
"That's a big concern," she said.
She said that the issue needs lots more investigation before firm conclusions can be drawn, but that studies are linking microorganism found in the African nation of Mali to the same ones found in studies on St. John and Trinidad.
In other weather related matters, Morales said another wave just off the African coast shows signs of development, but is expected to track north rather than head eastward toward the Virgin Islands.

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