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Sahara winds send dust cloud to southeastern US skies, creating stunning sunsets

Trillions of particles of dust are making for spectacular sunrises and sunsets, but may trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

ATLANTA — Hot desert winds are carrying a massive cloud of dust from Africa's Sahara Desert across the ocean into the southern United States this week.

Dust from the Sahara ordinarily flow northwesterly across the Atlantic during the early summer months, but this year's event is much larger than in past years. According to some scientists, this year's event is the largest in decades.

The effects of the cloud -- made up of trillions of grains of dust -- will be seen in the way it affects sunlight from the coastal areas of the Carolinas southward to Florida and across the Gulf Coastal region, but also inland, potentially as far north as the Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Sunlight is reflected in every direction, with some of even being reflected back into space, cooling the earth's surface a bit where the plume is thickest.

Longer waves of red and orange light tend to penetrate the haze, making for striking sunrises and sunsets in the affected areas.

Check out some of the photos from our 11Alive StormTrackers below. If you see a beautiful sky, snap a picture and upload it through our app!

However, in areas where the dust encounters showers and storms, downdrafts can carry the particles down to the surface, where air quality can be impaired and potentially triggering allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

NASA images indicate that a second plume of dust appears to be forming on the heels of this one, promising additional dust reaching our shores in another week or so.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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