Dust Storm

  • Crops in the Canary Islands were ravaged by amassive sandstorm affecting the archipelago from February 22 through 24, 2020. Agrarian leaders are expecting the damages to be long-term as not only the current harvest was lost, but the next ones are also at risk. 

    The sandstorm, known as calima in the Canary Islands, was described to be the worst in 40 years-- it wreaked havoc across the archipelago, caused hundreds of canceled flights, exacerbated bushfires which forced thousands to evacuate, and badly affected the agricultural sector.

    Among the worst-hit crops are banana, potato, and avocado. The effects of sandstorm also threaten ornamental flowers.

    In some parts, the impact of the storm on banana plantations may be the same as that of Tropical Storm "Delta" in 2005, according to Javier Gutierrez, the general secretary of the Association of Agricultural Producers and Livestock Farmers of the Canary Islands (Asaga Canarias).

    The same impact applies to farms in Tenerife's Orotava Valley and La Palma. "Almost half of the plants are in the ground, but in those still standing the damage has been so brutal that they cannot be packaged."

    Meanwhile, many banana plantations will have to be uprooted and sown again "with the investment that this entails," Gutierrez added.

    In these cases, there may be a year of loss ahead as future harvests are also at risk. 

    For potato crops, the areas hit by the sandstorm are those in which the drought had not yet affected. "Those have been completely blown away," said Angela Delgado, president of Asaga, who fears that there will be a reduction in the production of potatoes at nearly 50 percent.

    Green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and escarole were also severely hit, according to Juan Antonio Hernandez, secretary of the Coordinator of Agricultural Producers and Livestock Organizations (COAG).

    Hernandez added that tomato crops in the municipality of La Aldea were impacted. Avocados were ravaged in the middle of the flowering period, thus, the next harvest will be compromised.

    Minister of Agriculture of the Canarian Government Alicia Vanooestende had visited several plantain and avocado farms to check the situation. The damage assessment is now underway and it may take days to finalize the full extent, but she expects them to be "substantial".

    "There is a lot of effect on banana plantations, with loss of production, breakage of leaves that involve significant long-term damage, and also in the avocado sector when many fruits fall."

  • A massive sandstorm with winds up to 120 km/h (75 mph) hit the Canary Islands over the weekend and continued into Monday, February 24, 2020.

    The storm caused severe disruptions and exacerbated wildfires which forced about 2 000 residents to evacuate. The regional president called it the worst storm to hit the islands in 40 years.

    Swirling sands prompted planes to be grounded, with planes rerouting to other destinations. Furthermore, authorities stopped flights from taking off from airports. 745 flights were canceled over the weekend, while 84 more were diverted. 

    All eight airports in the archipelago had been closed on Saturday, February 22, due to powerful winds and low visibility. As a result, thousands of tourists were left stranded. 

    According to Angel Victor Torres, the islands' regional president, it was the worst such storm to sweep the islands in 40 years, adding that its arrival was a "nightmare weekend".

    Primary schools remained closed on Monday as authorities advised residents to keep their windows shut and stay indoors, especially people suffering respiratory problems.

    Winds of up to 120 km/h (75 mph) carried red sand over 100 km (62 miles) from the Sahara to the islands, which fanned wildfires and caused about 2 000 residents to flee their homes in Tenerife and Gran Canaria.

    "They were the longest 15 seconds of my life," said 56-year-old Lali Gutierrez as she recalled how her family panicked to escape a wildfire accelerating towards their home.

    "We grabbed our two dogs and a cat when they told us to leave, and that was all we had time for."

    As the fierce winds fueled wildfires, huge swaths of lands have been destroyed, including a banana plantation. Pilots were unable to fly aircraft to help firefighters on the ground.

    The eight islands were still partially covered in red haze on Monday, which could be seen from space. "The Canary Islands have turned into Mars," wrote Severe Weather Europe (SWE), as witnesses also described the conditions to be resembling the red planet.

    "It is Dantesque and brutal. It seems like Mars," Emilio Cuevas Agullo of the Spanish Meteorological Agency also noted.

    "We are experiencing a tremendous sandstorm which will probably go down as the worst of its kind in history since records began," he remarked.

    This weather phenomenon is also known as a 'calima' in the Canary Islands. It happens when a burst of dusty wind develops during sand storms in the Sahara and then crosses over from the African desert.

    The calima's arrival during the weekend wreaked havoc to much of the archipelago, engulfing vehicles and buildings in red dust. In La Palma, ferocious winds knocked down lamp posts, trees, and a wall, blanketing parked cars in debris. Many roads were also closed as the storm resulted in low visibility.

    On Monday, all eight airports were eventually reopened as "the overnight improvement in the weather has allowed the resumption of air traffic in all airports in the Canary Islands," said the Spanish transport ministry.

    Situated off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara, the Canary Islands is a popular tourist spot due to its temperate climate. In 2019, over 13 million foreigners traveled to the island, making it the third most popular tourist region of Spain

  • A dust storm hit the northeast of the Argentinean province of Chubut

    The strong winds of up to 100 kmh damaged homes, uprooted trees and sent people fleeing for their lives as the sand decreased visibility to almost nothing.

    The entire east of Chubut suffered the greatest damage: winds that exceeded 120 kmh uprooting trees, destroying power lines, damaging homes and triggering total power outages.

    The storm enhanced the wildfire raging in the “El Doradillo” area near Puerto Madryn, during which at least 16 houses have burned down.

    In the Municipality of Trelew, people were asked to stay at home during the powerful storm that lasted about two hours.

    But it’s not the first time people living in Chubut experience such dramatic atmospheric events. And people say the problem is the government.

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