Dust In The Wind

You may have seen stories about “acid rain” falling in Connecticut a week ago and people speculating that it was fallout from the controlled burn at the site of the derailment in New Palestine, OH.

Of course, as it turns out, it wasn’t acid rain. Instead it was dust that had been carried aloft from a dust storm in Texas and rain showers brought the dust down.

Last Friday night after the winds died down after a blustery day, some locations in and around the Eastern Panhandle of WV (Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia) saw dust falling from the sky. (I live in that area but we didn’t have any dust in our neighborhood.) and began discussing it on a local Facebook page the posts info from local fire department scanners and reposts weather alerts from the National Weather Service.

People started off pretty normal—posting photos, asking what it was, asking if other people were seeing it too. The wags had their day too, with one person posting a picture from a past snowfall. I didn’t expect anything to differ from the reaction I’d seen the previous week in Connecticut (I was following it because my parents live in CT). Another group of responders kept reminding everyone that it had been 80F the previous day and that pine and cedar trees release their pollen in giant blasts and it was most likely what was happening.

The local page’s administrator has a background as a first responder, so he called the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Keep in mind that this was on a Saturday evening. The person answering the phone said she didn’t know what to do but that’d she’d call some DEP people to see what to do. And then she called him back—the Saturday night call service person—and this was the result:

**Alert**. Call 911!!  Per The WV Dept of Environmental Protection, they have requested that anybody experiencing these issues call 911 immediately and have their local fire department respond.  They also advise to shut doors and windows and avoid outdoors at this time as a common sense approach until it can be identified.  Please share.

Yes, if you see non-toxic dust in the air, go inside and call 911.

I’ll let you think about what happened next:

**Update**. For those who have not seen our additional posts, the WVDEP representative rescinded the request for folks to call 911.  DEP has made a statement and we interviewed REDACTED of BCEMA.  Please see those posts above.

Now if there’s one thing that will get the attention of organization heads, it’s a bunch of people calling 911 over non-toxic dust on a Saturday night. The fourth act writes itself:

REDACTED has just had another conversation with the call taker at WVDEP.  She wanted to update us that after she had passed on the pertinent information to WVDEP, that she was told that she had no authority to speak on behalf of the WVDEP as a WVDEP call taker/ employee and that all comments and suggestions that she had made to REDACTED were made of her own opinion.  In other words she is stating that the advice given to call 911 that was disseminated on our page was now not WVDEPs position, but that it was her own personal opinion.

Now how did we go from a former first responder’s local info page to everyone calling 911 in a panic? Well, subsequent conversations revealed that the page’s admin is a conspiracy theorist so the first thing to go in this entire debacle was critical thinking. UGH UGH UGH. It was kind of funny as it went along, but the next time the masses get hysterical it could have much worse consequences.

Oh, and remember those people continually trying to inject facts about pollen into the conversation? WVDEP analyzed the dust and it was…wait for it…mostly pollen with a little dust.  Mmmmhmmmm.

You already know what I’ve queued up to close this out.

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