Local News

Code Red Ozone Alert: No One is Safe

Posted June 25, 1998

— Sizzling sun. Dangerous heat. When the temperature climbs this high, the best thing to do is stay inside but, for those who absolutely have to go outside today, there are a few things you can do to stay safe. Experts say the key to staying cool and healthy in this type of weather is to practice the art of being a couch potato.

The Triangle is under its first 'Code Red" ozone alert, which means the air outside is thick, hot and polluted. That means danger for everyone, not just those who are sensitive to it. The combination of very hot air, no breeze to speak of and plenty of vehicle fumes is the recipe for an ozone alert.

WRAL-TV5 MeteorologistMike Mazesays Friday is the hottest day so far for this season, and that Saturday looks as if it will be much the same. In addition to the ozone alert, a heat advisory is in effect for an area that stretches from the Triangle to Charlotte and along the southern border of North Carolina.

Within that area, with humidity factored in, the heat index will lurch above the 100-degree mark with room to spare. In Rocky Mount, for example, the temperature is expected to reach 100, with the heat index topping out at 110. Those in Fayetteville can look forward to similar conditions.

As for what one can do to stay as comfortable as possible, first and foremost, dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.

Those who must work outdoors are at risk and should heed warnings.

"Ozone is a highly reactive gas," says Tom Mather of the N.C. Division of Air Quality. "It's an irritant to the respiratory system. So, people with asthma or other respiratory conditions, young children or the elderly can have difficulty breathing on days like today."

This is the first year the Triangle has been placed under the Environmental Protection Agency's ozone standards. The ozone level is expected to be at least 20 percent higher than acceptable standards under the current code red.

While it's difficult to stay cool, there are things one can do to be somewhat safer.

"Avoid strenuous activities, things like running or exercising during [daylight] hours, or working hard outdoors, particularly for extended periods," says Mather.

The very best thing is to remain indoors with air conditioning or fans for the elderly or young children, and use common sense overall.

Since vehicle fumes contribute to the pollution, environmental experts offer some tips to help keep the ozone level from getting even worse:

  • Eliminate unnecessary driving and keep necessary driving to a minimum
  • Don't let vehicles idle unnecessarily
  • Don't "top off" the gas tank when filling it
  • Don't use lighter fluid if you barbecue (not barbecuing at all would be even better)
  • Postpone use of a gasoline lawn mower.

    The code red conditions could very likely continue for several days, even if temperatures drop.

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