West Virginia officials investigate reports of powder in air

Officials say it could be from dust storms in the Midwest.

Reports of a powder in the air and on some vehicles in parts of the mid-Atlantic U.S. have prompted an investigation by state environment officials in at least one state.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is working with state and local agencies to collect and analyze samples of the dust-like substance, which was reported in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, about 100 miles west of Washington, D.C., according to a statement issued Friday.

The agency began investigating after residents reported seeing the substance across multiple counties late Thursday night.

Social media users posted about seeing the powder in the air and on cars on Friday in West Virginia, northern Virginia and Maryland.

A state lab in West Virginia will test the dust to determine if it’s related to recent dust storms in the Midwest, the Department of Environmental Protection statement said. Dust from storms in Texas and New Mexico traveled east through Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky on Thursday, according to satellite images captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

The Maryland Department of the Environment acknowledged the reports in a statement, saying the likely explanation was dust from Texas and New Mexico. The agency said a shift in wind has since brought clean air from Canada, and that monitoring systems on Friday recorded good air quality.

There’s no indication the powder is related to the recent toxic train derailment in Ohio, said West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Terry Fletcher, in a phone interview. He said continuous air monitors in the Northern Panhandle haven’t seen any air quality problems from the Feb. 3 crash.

By The Associated Press