“Dirty rain” that fell on the Quad-Cities Thursday left powdery residue on vehicles and is keeping car washes busy.

David Cousins, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Davenport, said airborne sand from White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, and Texas pooled up in a storm system.

“The wind was blowing across the High Plains out there, and wafted some sand into the air,” Cousins said. “Some of that sand got high enough so that it was pooled northward into the storm.

Water condensed onto the dust, and when the raindrops were big enough they fell with the dust still in them.

The phenomenon showed up on the satellite, he said. “To get it from there, it’s rare,” he said. “You have to have the conditions where the soil or sand is loose enough where it gets picked up by the wind. It doesn’t happen all that often.”

There were reports of sand in the snow that fell in Minnesota and South Dakota, he said.

Although skies remained cloudy and winds brisk on Friday, many Quad-City drivers headed to car washes.

“Did it rain mud?” customers asked at Total Detailing Auto Spa, Bettendorf, said owner/manager Tim Lofgren.

“Yesterday, at the end of the day, we were like ‘Oh my gosh! The cars are filthy!” Lofgren said. As soon as water hit the vehicles, the dirt ran off.

“We were backed up this morning when we opened,” he said. “There were cars pulling up at ten 'til 8.”

At WaterPark Car Wash, Moline, Greg Pilichowski called in extra staff to keep up with the flow on Friday. By noon, 200 vehicles had been washed.

"Everyone wants to wash that New Mexico dirt off their cars," he said.

If the volume kept up, he said 400 vehicles would go through by close of day Friday. 'That's big for an April day," he said.

Saturday will bring a respite from rain, dirty or otherwise, with clear skies and temperatures in the lower 50s.

More precipitation is on the way for the Quad-Cities, though, beginning with rain Saturday night. “This could be a rain/snow mix overnight, and it may change over to all snow early Sunday until mid-morning, then return to rain,” Cousins said. Highs will be in the lower 40s.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.