West Virginia officials investigate reports of powder in the air

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Reports of a powder in the air and on some vehicles in parts of the mid-Atlantic U.S. have prompted an investigation by state environment officials in at least one state.

The West Virginia Capito building as seen from across the river in spring
[Sean Pavone |]
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is working with state and local agencies to collect and analyze samples of the dust-like substance, which was reported in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, about 100 miles west of Washington, D.C., according to a statement issued Friday.

The agency began investigating after residents reported seeing the substance across multiple counties late Thursday night.

Social media users posted about seeing the powder in the air and on cars on Friday in West Virginia, northern Virginia and Maryland.

A state lab in West Virginia will test the dust to determine if it’s related to recent dust storms in the Midwest, the Department of Environmental Protection statement said. Dust from storms in Texas and New Mexico traveled east through Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky on Thursday, according to satellite images captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

There’s no indication the powder is related to the recent toxic train derailment in Ohio, said West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Terry Fletcher, in a phone interview. He said continuous air monitors in the Northern Panhandle haven’t seen any air quality problems from the Feb. 3 crash.