The influx of Sahara dust that arrived Monday will stick around until Friday, National Weather Service meteorologist David Sanchez said Wednesday.
“Today and tomorrow will be the worst days,” he said from the Weather Service office in San Juan.
While Sanchez said there might have been a minor episode of dust blowing across the Atlantic from Africa a bit earlier, he said this is the first major dust fall to hit the Virgin Islands this year.
He said that it may seem a bit early for the dust to arrive but April and May are the months when it typically begins.
“The peak is June and July,” he said.
The dust is keeping the chance of rain to less than five percent, Sanchez said. He doesn’t see much improvement on the horizon regarding rain, and said that situation should last for the next seven to 10 days.
“Maybe just increasing cloudiness,” he said.
The territory has experienced high winds in the 15 to 20 mph range for the past few days. Sanchez attributed that to a high pressure ridge in the central Atlantic Ocean that is bring the wind from the south. He said the wind direction should change over the weekend to the normal east to southeast direction.
“It will be the normal tradewinds flow,” he said.
Residents know how irritating the dust can be to their health, and the same goes for animals, said Dr. Staci Jung of Sugar Mill Veterinary Center on St. Croix.
“We always see an increase in allergy cases,” she said.
Like humans, she said, animals can get skin irritations, red itchy eyes, coughing, and sneezing when Sahara dust arrives.
Jung said the hotter weather that can accompany the dust makes it easier for animals to overheat, so she urged owners to make sure those in their care have plenty of water and access to shade.