Fierce gusting winds whipped up dust in eastern Nevada, moved it across Tooele County and deposited some of the impacts in the Salt Lake Valley and other areas in Utah on Tuesday afternoon. Fine particulate readings in Tooele were well above the federal threshold imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The hourly pollution reading in Tooele County as of 4 p.m. Tuesday showed values of 38.1 micrograms per cubic meter, while an hour earlier it was hovering in the high 50s. The federal threshold is 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, said the Tuesday front accompanied by the strong winds pushed dust from Nevada into Utah’s western desert region and also impacted cities along the Wasatch Front.

“In Salt Lake City I am looking south and I can’t see any mountains from my perspective right now,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

Several counties were logging double-digit numbers for fine particulate pollution, including Salt Lake, Weber, Davis and Washington counties, with conditions being reported by the division.

With Great Salt Lake’s exposed lakebed, it’s tempting to believe it is among the dust culprits, but Bird said satellite images show the dust is originating in Nevada, traveling through western Utah and then moving into Wasatch Front cities.

“In western western Utah and Nevada, the typical basins where we have the dry lakes and playas, they tend to dry up in the springtime and so it is not unusual to have winds that dry out the surface more and then train that dust that impacts the Wasatch Front,” Bird said.

Satellite imagery from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration details the tropospheric dust content as it moves along the Pacific Coast into Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.

The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City issued a high wind warning for the west desert of Utah, with Bird adding that the Four Corners region is getting blowing dust. Wind warnings were in effect in that area as well.

As the front moves through, wind and dust will persist, with Bird saying that even after the wind is gone, it will take time for the dust to dissipate.

Fine particulate matter is so tiny a human hair is 70 times its size. It buries itself deep in the lungs and can cause long lasting health impacts, especially with people compromised by respiratory or heart issues.

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