The Chinese capital, Beijing, was buffeted by the most severe sandstorm to hit northern China in over a decade late Wednesday.

Authorities at the national observatory issued a sandstorm yellow alert -- the third-most serious warning -- and many areas in the city recorded air pollution readings of nearly 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter, a level considered hazardous, the South China Morning Post reported.

Agency images showed huge traffic jams, and city residents donning masks and goggles to fend off the red sand.

Beijing Sandstorm This general view shows the Sanlitun District during a sandstorm in Beijing on April 15, 2015. Beijing's meteorological observatory issued a yellow sandstorm warning for the Chinese capital. Sandstorms are an annual occurrence in arid northern China in the spring, when temperatures start to rise, stirring up clouds of dust that can travel across China to South Korea and Japan, and even to the United States. Photo: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

China Sandstorm A couple wearing masks kiss along a street during a sandstorm in Beijing, April 15, 2015. A sandstorm swept through China's northern regions on Wednesday, shrouding cities in dust and slowing down road traffic. The skyline in Beijing turned orange in the afternoon due to the sandy weather, with vehicles turning on fog lights for safety and many pedestrians wearing masks to protect themselves from the dust. Picture taken April 15, 2015.  Photo: REUTERS/China Daily

Beijingers are used to contending with extreme levels of air pollution – with the city's air being among the most consistently polluted in the world.

Pollution gets so bad that runners during last year's Beijing marathon were photographed wearing gas masks to offset the effects of the city's smog.  

In addition to the capital, 11 other provinces in the country were impacted by the storm.

Internet users in China branded the storm "Sand-ageddon." "It's very dirty, I feel like it is the end of the world," one Internet user said.

"It feels like we are living in a desert. I wonder how we can survive such bad weather," another online poster said, according to Australia's 9 News.

 

 

Beijing sandstorm A couple wears facemasks during a sandstorm in Beijing on April 15, 2015. Beijing's meteorological observatory issued a yellow sandstorm warning for the Chinese capital. Sandstorms are an annual occurrence in arid northern China in the spring, when temperatures start to rise, stirring up clouds of dust that can travel across China to South Korea and Japan, and even to the United States. Photo: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images