A sandstorm swept into Beijing early Monday, leaving skies hazy and the city blanketed under a film of ochre-colored dust — an annual rite of spring in the country's north.

It's "as if the desert has crawled to Beijing overnight," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted resident Zhang Rui as saying after the storm, which hit the China-Inner Mongolia border over the weekend, moved southeast into the capital early Monday.

All over the city, residents and workers were dusting and hosing down cars, buildings and monuments. The weather was calm but meteorologists predicted a slight drizzle Monday night.

On Sunday, city workers were sent to wash down roads and construction sites were told to stop work in an effort to lessen the impact of the storm, Xinhua said.

Each spring, sandstorms fed by the deserts of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia blow toward Beijing and the eastern seaboard. Sometimes, the dust blows out across the Pacific, clouding the skies of South Korea and occasionally drifting as far as the U.S. West Coast.

Monday's storm was the eighth — and the worst — to hit Beijing this year, with sand granules being much larger than normal dust particles in the city's air, Xinhua said, citing Wang Xiaoming, an official with the city's environment protection bureau.

"That's why we feel sand is raining down," Wang said.

Last week, the western Xinjiang region was hit by its worst sandstorm in decades with one person killed and thousands stranded after sand covered railways and high winds smashed train and car windows.