Why are Houston cars covered in dirt and dust? Monday’s storm clouds brought it from West Texas

The local National Weather Service office says the cold front that blew into the Houston area on Monday brought dirt and dust that had been sucked up into the clouds in Texas’ desert regions. The particles fell to the ground along with rain and hail.

Dirty Houston Car
Daisy Espinoza/Houston Public Media
Many cars and trucks in the Houston area were covered with a film of dirt on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. The dust was carried from West Texas and came down with rain and hail from the day before, according to the National Weather Service’s Houston-Galveston office.

Houston-area residents might have woken up Tuesday morning and thought they had been transported to the dusty plains of West Texas.

That's because part of West Texas had been transported to Houston.

A cold front blew into the Houston region Monday, bringing rain, hail, thunderstorms, strong winds and even a couple tornadoes. It also brought dirt and dust that were sucked up into the clouds and carried east from Texas' desert regions, according to Hayley Adams, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service's Houston-Galveston office who said that "resulted in a dusty residue that we experienced this morning on cars."

"When the rain fell down," Adams added, "that dust came down with it."

The dusty film left behind in the wake of the cold front was a statewide phenomenon, according to Adams. She said such a residue is more common for the Houston area in the summertime, when winds tend to carry dust westward from the Saharan Desert in Africa.

Tuesday's dry air and clear, sunny skies were preceded by a wet and cloudy Monday in which about an inch of rain fell on the Houston region, according to Adams. She said the metropolitan area also saw wind speeds between 45-58 mph on Monday afternoon, when a gust of 69 mph was recorded at Brazoria County Airport to the south and a 62 mph gust was experienced in College Station to the northwest.

Adams said two tornadoes were spotted northeast of Houston, in Coldspring and over Lake Livingston. There also were reports of hail in the region, according to Adams, who said dust could have come down with those icy particles like it did with the rain.