LUBBOCK — A wall of dust as tall as 1,000 feet and 200 miles wide that roared across parts of West Texas and New Mexico was yet another sign of how rain-starved the region is.
National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Aldrich in Lubbock said Wednesday the dust that lifted into the air on Tuesday evening came ahead of a fast-moving cold front that reached the city, already more than 1.5 inches behind on precipitation this year as drought lingers.
Most of the 0.17 inches of moisture that Lubbock got this year was from snow and freezing precipitation.
Wind gusts Tuesday evening reached 50 mph, and it took about 30 minutes for the leading wall of dust to move from the north end of Lubbock County to its southern border. Dust hung in the air afterward for hours and the strong winds persisted.
Visibility was reduced to about a mile in Lubbock. Northwest of Lubbock in Muleshoe and Friona the visibility was zero, Aldrich said.
Aldrich said the dust storm began in Amarillo, and the wall of fine soil particles extended west into New Mexico and east to near Post, about 40 miles southwest of Lubbock. The front began in Kansas, and once it reached the parched Panhandle around Amarillo, the dust began to get kicked up.
It worsened as it moved south toward Lubbock. “It’s drier up there, but it’s even drier down here,” Aldrich said.
About 67 percent of Texas is in some stage of drought, and projections from weather service officials in Fort Worth show the state got about half of the average amount of rainfall for January and February. But the driest areas are in West Texas.