Sand, dust storm is headed for southern Iraq

Meteorologists say system could hamper U.S. troops

War In Iraq

March 21, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

A powerful storm system is likely to pummel military forces in and around Iraq with blinding sand and choking dust beginning Monday night, meteorologists predicted yesterday.

The storm, from the same weather system that blanketed Moscow with heavy snow yesterday, will probably be nearly twice as strong as the one that grounded helicopters and limited troop movements in Kuwait Wednesday, private and government meteorologists said.

Winds are expected to exceed 50 mph in gusts in southern Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, said meteorologists at Accuweather.com, a commercial forecasting company. The dust storm on Wednesday blew through at about 20 to 30 mph.

Potentially further hampering early military action, temperatures around Baghdad are predicted to climb unusually high Monday ahead of the storm front, reaching 90 degrees, weather experts said.

After the early taste of summer heat, the winds should peak Tuesday, meteorologists said.

In northern Iraq next week, the powerful front is likely to produce rain that will limit dust clouds. But the precipitation is not expected to reach the south, where troops are rolling into the country from Kuwait, so nothing will prevent gusts of 40 to 50 mph from scouring the earth and raising thick veils of dust.

In the region, storms this intense can limit visibility to less than 100 feet.

Some American troops can use heat-sensing gun sights that detect targets even in fairly thick dust. Satellite-guided bombs are not hampered.

But even the most advanced attack helicopters are put at great risk by the heavy dust, military experts said.

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