I also didn't understand why you didn't put up some small amount of sail and either "heave to" at 30 degrees or so off the wind or run with the wind on the quarter. This is essentially my answer to your 2 questions - when we are in the path of squalls we usually take the jib off and reef the main down to the third reefing points. We have noticed many occasions when the wind goes dead and the air heats up for 20 minutes before the squall hits us. (I have no idea about the yellow cloud and can only guess to possible light refraction off the moisture in the clou, or potential sand if the wind was off shore. In terms of steering through the storm in black out conditions, on of the reason I like heaving to is that it's fairly easy to know where the wind is coming from when you are 30 degrees or so off the wind.
Having said all that - you had a plan, you thought through your options in advance and you got home safely. Nicely done.
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