A rare event caused several large scale collisions on the motorway A19 in Northern Germany. The text below is a summarizing translation of a news broadcast explaining the meteorological phenomenon. A TV presenter is interviewing a meteorologist about the hazard because sand storms are not very common in Germany and people are not familiar with it.
Meteorological explanation for the desaster.
Motorists described the sand storm as a dark dust wall on the motorway. It took them by surprise because the sand storm unleashed its full fury on a plain. The motorway exits woodland and then crosses the plain. Drivers coming out of the woodland could not see what was in front of them until a few seconds before they were right in it.
The presenter asked the meteorologist whether a sand storm warning had been issued so that the population would have been warned.
Frank Böttcher, meteorologist: There is no warning system in Germany for sand storms. We have regular storm warnings and there was one in effect for the region today, warning of storm force gusts of over 50 mph.
Presenter: In spring, storms are quite common so people should be prepared for severe weather events. Sand storms, however, are rather unusual. How do these storms form?
FB: A combination of several factors contributes to an event of this scale. First ingredient is a several weeks lasting drought as we have seen it in North East Germany, virtually no precipitation for six weeks. The soil is extremely dry. Then the farmers are ploughing their fields, which facilitates the rise of dust into the air. Another problem is the lower lying motorway, the loose dust is blown into it like into a ditch or a tunnel.
Presenter: You should be able to see that at the side of the road, dust drift and deposits of dust, no?
FB: Yes, that can be seen quite frequently all over Germany. Sand and dust drift across fields and roads with the light wind. Visibility is not yet affected since it happens a few inches above ground level. Once you have gusts of 50 mph and more the dust is blown up several metres and the formerly clear day on the motorway can turn very quickly into virtually zero visibility.
Presenter: What can we expect of the next couple of days? We have just seen the forecast predicting more stormy weather to come.
FB: The conditions are forecast to remain very windy until at least tomorrow noon so similar dust storms can develop over Northern Germany. The winds are supposed to die down in the afternoon and the conditions will be back to normal, no longer presenting any danger to motorists.
Translation based on the news broadcast of NDR, April 8 2011.
Updated: Saat: 11:02 PM GMT Tarih: 08 Nisan 2011
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