Were the baseball gods smiting the city of Phoenix because next week's major league All-Star game counts for home-field advantage in the World Series?
Or, was this nasty-looking dust storm bound for Chase Field's downtown location on Tuesday night objecting to Wily Mo Peña's unjust exclusion from the list of competitors at the Home Run Derby?
Whatever the storm's cause, Major League Baseball now has less than a week to dust away the dust and fix the other problems that reportedly plague the Midsummer Classic. (Good luck with those.)
Holly Ward, a spokeswoman at the Maricopa County Air Quality Department, said pollution levels skyrocketed. Particulate matter at one monitoring site hit an hourly average of more than 5,000 micrograms per cubic meter. Tuesday's 24-hour average was as high as 375 micrograms per cubic meter, more than double the level federal standards consider healthy.
"You didn't have to go far anywhere in the dust storm to feel the remnants of that dust in your throat and in your nose," Ward said. "If someone already has breathing problems like asthma and bronchitis, this is an incredible health challenge and serious health threat for those folks."
Local hospitals were expecting an increase in a disease known as Valley Fever, a fungal pneumonia, because of the storm. The fungus thrives in the hot and arid Southwest and is found just a few feet beneath the earth's surface; it can be stirred up by construction, wind and other activity.
Here are some more amazing photos of the storm, taken by Mark J. Rebilas of US Presswire: