A HUGE 'Godzilla ghost cloud' has landed in the coronavirus-hit south, whipped up from the biggest Saharan dust storm in fifty years.
The gigantic plume of dust hit Mississippi yesterday and is headed for Florida and Texas this weekend – sparking fears that a plunge in air quality could cause respiratory problems for Americans.
According to the National Weather Service, the 3,500 mile long cloud travelled an astonishing 5,000 miles from North Africa before landing in the States.
The Saharan Air Layer (SAL) first appeared on satellite images captured over Africa in June according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Pictures show the thick smog hanging over Havana, Cuba and Bridgetown, Barbados as it sweeps into Mexico.
While in the US, it has hovered over the region from Florida into Texas before moving into North Carolina and Arkansas – and will now settle in the Southeast into the middle of next week.
Experts have warned that the dust cloud could spark serious health fears for residents of states that are already seeing an alarming spike in coronavirus cases.
Vulnerable people are being warned to stay inside in Texas and Florida as air quality drops due to the cloud.
Meteorologist Patrick Blood told Reuters that – while the dust cloud is a common occurence – this year was the most dense it had been in half a century.
He said: "It's a really dry layer of air that contains these very fine dust particulates. It occurs every summer."
Gregory Wellenius, professor of environmental health at Boston University's School of Public Health, warned there could potentially be an interaction between coronavirus and air pollution.
He said: "There's emerging evidence of potential interactions between air pollution and the risk of COVID, so at this stage we are concerned."
Professor Wellenius added that the air pollution could be seriously dangerous for those who suffer from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.
It is also known that heart and lung problems heighten the risk of severe coronavirus.
According to meteorologists, the plume will bring hazy skies and lower visibility – giving
There is also a risk that the plume could dump a thin layer of dust onto vehicles in Houston, where air quality is always a concern.
It comes as many of the state's expected to be hit by the dust cloud are seeing a worrying spike in coronavirus infections.
Florida saw cases surge by 5,508 on Wednesday, marking a jump of 25 percent on its previous record of 4,049 on June 20.
And across the country, the number of coronavirus patients has more than doubled in the past two weeks.
Texas has also been hard-hit, with governor Greg Abbott yesterday announcing that reopening had been put "on pause".
The state has reported more than 5,000 new cases for three days in a row and hit successive records for COVID-19 hospitalizations for 13 consecutive days.
"This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business," Abbott said in a statement.
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