SURPRISED motorists woke this week to find bits of desert coating their cars with a fine dust after sands from the Sahara landed in Swindon.
The unusual weather pattern lifted a sandstorm from the Saharan desert and swept it north over the weekend, with residue coming to rest around the south-west of England.
A certain combination of factors contributed to the freak occurrence, as sand particles can be transported more than 2,000 miles.
After being lifted by very strong winds, the sand can travel a great distance before encountering a milder climate and being caught in rain droplets.
The events are marked in the calendar by car washers, who say it tends to happen at around the same time every year.
Festir Broja, manager of the Fleming Way car wash, said he had already seen people coming through to remove the red sand.
“This is something that comes along every year, so we know what to expect,” he said. “Last year at around the same time the same thing happened.
“Even as early as yesterday we had cars coming in dirty with the dust. Of course it depends on the person if they will come to see us or not. Some people do not care, others can’t stand having their car in that state.”
Others had the frustration of seeing their newly-washed car covered in dirt.
“We have seen some people coming back two days in a row because they might have cleaned their car and woken up the next morning to find it covered in dust,” added Festir, 35.
“We haven’t seen this sort of thing very often, and it is usually an annual thing. We have seen quite a few more people coming through who like to have their cars cleaned straight away. Others will probably leave it for a while.
“It is not a huge problem, because there is not much dust which has landed, but it is quite a strange situation to have dust coming over here from Sahara or Arabia.
“Yesterday we could see it picking up for us.
“It is the same job but with different people. Some people like their cars cleaned every day, and that is good for us.”
The Met Office has warned that another coating of dust could hit the country later this week.
Paul Hutcheon, of the Met Office, said: “We usually see this happen several times a year when big dust storms in the Sahara coincide with southerly winds to bring that dust here. More dust rain is possible during showers expected later this week.”