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Nevada Blamed For Muddy, Milky Rain In Northwest


It rained in parts of Washington, Oregon and Idaho last Friday, which really isn't news, but it wasn’t an ordinary rain.

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Residents noticed an unusual milky residue on their cars following this particular rain.

The strange-colored rain got a lot of attention online.

Media inquiries prompted meteorologists from Washington State to look into the issue. Preliminary research concluded that Nevada is to blame, and Facebook posts like “Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” went viral.

“I came across the windstorm that occurred in Reno on Friday, looked at some of the wind reports and thought that, potentially, some of that dust that got entrained into this rainstorm came from Nevada,” said Greg Koch, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Spokane, Washington.

There are other hypotheses researchers are working on.

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One from Inland Northwest Weather Blog blames volcanic activity in Russia for the dirty rain. Another points at ash from burn areas in the Western U.S. Still another says it also might be a dust from Southern Oregon. 

Did the muddy rain start in Nevada and travel all the way up to the Northwest? Not likely.

What probably happened was Nevada’s light colored sands from the dry lake beds were picked up by winds and carried all the way to Washington.

“We had a combination of that dry sand and prolonged wind event,” Koch said.

Although it’s not unusual to have muddy rains in Washington, the concentration and color of the recent phenomena was unknown to the region.

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“Our soil locally is brown color, light brown. The milky rain we had on Friday was white or light-gray,” Koch said. “And it’s not a time of year we get muddy rains either.”


Greg Koch, forecaster at the National Weather Service at Spokane, Washington

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