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Ophelia brings Saharan dust to Britain, damages could reach $1.8 billion

Staff Writer |
The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia whipped up dust from the Sahara Desert and smoke from Portuguese wildfires, casting an eerie, orange glow across portions of Britain on Monday.

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Irish authorities will begin to clean up and count the cost of the worst storm to hit the country in more than 50 years, after Ophelia left a trail of destruction in its wake.

At least three people died in storm-related incidents, police said, while more than 350,000 homes and companies lost power. Damages could reach $1.8 billion.

People in Britain, including London, woke up to a red sun and a similar sepia-toned sky, prompting social media posts questioning the cause of the unusual color.

Britain's Met Office for weather and climate said former Hurricane Ophelia wind gusts blew Saharan dust and smoke from fires in the northern Iberian Peninsula north into the atmosphere over the country.

"Saharan dust and smoke from wildfires in northern Iberia scattered the blue light from the sun, letting more red light through," the Met Office said on Twitter.

Dust particles can block the path of light that has shorter wavelengths, like blue and violet. When only longer wavelength light like yellow, orange and red, pass through the atmosphere, the sky appears orange-hued.

The remnants of Ophelia were centered along the northwest Irish coast Monday evening local time.

The storm killed at least three people in the country.

At least 120,000 homes were without power and officials ordered lockdowns for virtually all locations in the storm's path.


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