Parts of the mid-Atlantic United States are reportedly seeing mysterious white dust falling in the region, with officials testing samples of the dust to identify its origin.
“Several reports of an unknown white powder or dust sediment falling out of the sky throughout West Virginia and Maryland … Local fire departments suggesting people shut windows and doors and stay inside until it can be investigated,” political strategist Chuck Callesto said in a Feb. 24 Twitter post. An accompanying video showed cars being covered by the white dust.
The Facebook page of Eastern Panhandle Working Fires (EPWF), which tracks emergencies in Panhandle, West Virginia, warned about “strange film/dust” descending on Jefferson and Berkeley counties as well as other areas in a Facebook post on Friday.
EPWF contacted the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), which warned citizens experiencing related issues to call 911 “immediately” and have their local fire department respond. WVDEP also advised citizens to shut doors and windows of their homes and avoid venturing outside until the issue can be identified.
“The WVDEP received reports late Thursday night about the dust and mobilized inspectors to the area to collect samples and identify potential sources. No obvious sources have been identified at this time. No shelter in place advisories have been issued for this area,” WVDEP said a Feb. 24 press release.
“Samples will also be taken to the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey in Morgantown to determine if the cause of the dust is related to recent dust storms in the Midwest,” the department added.
Dust From New Mexico and Texas?
Though the specifics of the dust are yet to be determined, there is speculation that it could be related to dust storms in New Mexico and Texas that traveled east through Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky on Feb. 23, according to The Associated Press.
Similar dust fell in the previous week in Connecticut that reportedly had an odor similar to chlorine.
“The dust/residue on cars this morning has a pretty logical explanation and that’s dust kicked up from a dust storm in the plains a few days ago,” Ryan Hanrahan, a meteorologist from Connecticut, said in a Feb. 17 Facebook post.
“As for the chemical smell (chlorine-like?) this morning I don’t have an explanation for that. I did smell it this morning here in West Hartford and it was pretty strong. It seems unlikely that it’s from the train derailment and fire in Ohio last week, however, as it would have dispersed quite a bit in the last 10 days.”
The train derailment happened on Feb. 3 when a 50-car Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Some cars were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, which is known to be highly flammable.
The toxin was released into the air from five of the cars before the chemical was purposefully ignited to remove it in a controlled fashion. Residents in the region were evacuated following concerns of health risks.
Some residents in Maryland were reportedly worried whether the white dust carried links to toxic substances from the crash.
According to Tom Brown, director of emergency management for Washington County, Maryland, this is unlikely since the windflow would not have carried any air from the East Palestine area into the region. However, Brown admitted that he doesn’t know much about the dust.
“I haven’t seen the dust. I haven’t seen any data to determine what it is,” Brown said, according to Herald Mail Media. “We’re still monitoring it.”
Speaking to the outlet, a spokesperson from the Maryland Department of the Environment said that the agency believes the dust has likely been carried from New Mexico and Texas.
Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.