What To Do if You Come Upon a Severe Dust Storm

Dust storms are a common phenomenon, yet many of us do not fully understand the implications. From high winds to reduced visibility, they can bring a lot of disruption and even pose serious dangers.

While they can be a spectacular sight to behold, their impacts should not get underestimated. With billions of dollars in GDP loss across the Middle East and North Africa annually, this is far more significant than a handful of nations.

if you come upon a severe dust storm you should

So, should you be worried?

This post will look at what causes dust storms and their potential dangers. We’ll also provide tips to protect yourself and your family if you come upon a severe dust storm.

What Causes a Dust Storm?

Dust storms are potent and dangerous weather events that can severely damage property and lives. While they’re most common in dry, arid areas such as the Middle East and parts of the United States and Africa, they can occur practically anywhere on Earth.

What causes dust storms?

Weather Conditions

Strong pressure gradients caused by unequal temperatures and humidity can create powerful winds. The high winds create an updraft of air that lifts the dust particles into the atmosphere. When the air cools, the dust falls back to the ground, resulting in a dust storm.

Natural Features

Natural features like deserts, barren plains, and steppes can increase the frequency of dust storms. These environments lack vegetation, leaving the soil vulnerable to strong winds and wind erosion. When a windstorm occurs, the loose particles get swept up, resulting in a dust storm.

Human Activity

Uncontrolled land development and human-made land disturbances, such as off-roading, can reduce the amount of vegetation in an area, making it more prone to dust storms.

Additionally, industrial activities can contribute to the severity of a dust storm by creating more dust particles that get subsequently lifted into the atmosphere.

Are Dust Storms Dangerous?

While dust storms usually subside after a short period, they still pose a severe threat. It’s critical to be aware of their potential dangers to take precautions.

Here are a few of them.

Respiratory Issues

When inhaled, dust particles can cause or worsen respiratory problems, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It can also trigger allergic reactions and skin irritations due to its high pollen concentration and other allergens.

A single dust storm can increase emergency room visits and hospitalizations. The most vulnerable include children, the elderly, and people with preexisting conditions.

Property Damage

Heavy dust storms can cause extensive damage to infrastructure, buildings, and other structures. Sometimes, the storm can blow off the roof or completely collapse walls and other support structures.

Furthermore, dust can corrode metal objects and clog machinery, making them less efficient or unusable.

Heat Stress

The dust particles stirred up by storms can act as a blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and resulting in higher temperatures. It can cause severe heat stress for those who are outdoors and without proper protection.

For example, extreme heat can affect individuals engaged in strenuous activity, such as construction workers and athletes, and can even be fatal.

Decreased Visibility

Dust storms can significantly reduce visibility and cause difficulty for drivers, pilots, and people outdoors.

They obscure traffic signs and other essential landmarks by blocking the light, making navigating hard. In the UAE, more than 1,000 road accidents have recently been linked to dust storms.

People may also become disoriented or lost, putting their safety or others in danger.

How To Prepare for a Dust Storm

When it comes to dust storms, the truth is that they can be dangerous, especially when you’re unprepared. Fortunately, you can take a few precautions to reduce the risks and be poised when one strikes.

Make a Dust Storm Survival Kit

Create a kit with all the necessary items you’ll need if you find yourself in a dust storm. These include a flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid supplies, airtight goggles, a facemask, blankets, food, plenty of bottled water, and a weather radio.

Store your kit in an easily accessible place, so you can grab it quickly if you need it. With the right tools and knowledge, you can survive a dust storm safely.

Get Storm Updates

Stay up-to-date on dust storm warnings in your area by regularly checking weather alerts online, especially in the summer when they’re more likely to occur. But remember, most dust storms strike without warnings, so always be prepared.

Take Warnings Seriously

If a dust storm warning is issued, take it seriously. Get inside a house– hopefully, yours– where you can access emergency supplies and stay there until the storm passes. If you have livestock, ensure they’re safe in a shelter, and keep your pets indoors.

Postpone Projects That Generate a Lot of Dust

Postpone projects such as sanding, drywall work, and mowing until after the dust storm has passed. Doing so will reduce the amount of dust in the air and protect your health. You can also install air purifiers in your home and invest in a reliable air mask to protect yourself.

Properly Seal Your Home

Seal your home’s doors and windows and repair any damage to your roof, walls, and flooring to prevent dust from entering. Remember to inspect your home’s HVAC system to ensure it is adequately sealed and operational. It’s also good to stock up on filters to clean indoor air.

What To Do When Driving in a Dust Storm

Here’s what to do if you come upon a severe dust storm while driving:

what to do when driving in a dust storm
  • Check the traffic to ensure it’s safe, then slow down
  • Find a close spot and safely pull off the road as far as possible
  • Turn off all the lights to avoid blinding other drivers
  • Engage the car emergency brake and take your foot off the brake pedal
  • Lock your car windows and doors
  • Stay in the car with the seatbelt on and wait for the storm to pass

What To Do in a Dust Storm at Home

Follow these tips if you find yourself in a dust storm while at home:

  • Close all your house windows and doors
  • Put on a dust mask, if available.
  • Turn off any outdoor heating and cooling systems
  • Move away from external walls and windows
  • Stay inside the house until the dust storm has passed

You should also ensure you have a fully equipped dust storm survival kit in case you need to shelter in place for longer.


Dust storms can be a severe threat, especially if you’re unprepared. It’s critical to be aware of these potential dangers to keep yourself and your family safe.

Andrew Capper