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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — High temperatures, low wind speeds and dry air have combined to keep air pollution closer to the ground. Add that with vehicle emissions and other pollution and you’ve got dangerous conditions, especially for people with respiratory problems.
It was miserable Monday and the Mid-South was under a “Code Orange Forecast Advisory” by the Shelby County Health Department for much of the day.
“It is brutal. I’ve never seen heat like this,” said Terry Evans, who was visiting Tom Lee Park from Vancouver, British Columbia on Monday. “Here we are out on the beautiful waterfront and there’s not a soul. Now I know why.”
From the air you could see the thick blanket of pollution blanketing the Memphis skyline. Pollution from traffic and industry combining with weather conditions to create an ozone perfect storm.
“Very sunny skies, lower humidity, high temperatures, dry conditions and low wind speeds. All trap the pollution close to the surface of the earth,” said Michael Goldstein, a meteorologist with the Shelby County Health Department.
A Code Orange mean unhealthy conditions for the very young and the elderly, anyone with respiratory ailments.
Anyone spending time outdoors playing sports or working should be extra careful and watch for: dizziness, fatigue, coughing, phlegm, shortness of breath and asthma-like symptoms.
“Landscapers, construction workers or anybody who’s outside for prolonged periods who are exerting themselves,” said Goldstein.
Because most of our air pollution in Shelby County comes from vehicle emissions health officials urge people to carpool or use public transportation when ozone levels are high.
MATA lowered its fares for all passengers Monday to 25 cents while the Code Orange Advisory was in effect.
Lauren Winters of Minneapolis is in Memphis with a volunteer group and agrees having fewer cars on the road would help lower air pollution.
“I had to take an Uber from the airport. There wasn’t a bus or light rail or anything. I don’t know if that’s feasable to have here, but I’ve heard that helps,” she said.
The Shelby County Health Department suggests the following:
- Reduce automobile traffic by carpooling, taking public transportation, or finding alternative modes of transportation.
- If possible, avoid idling your car for a prolonged time.
- Mow your lawn near sunset.
- Stop at the “click.” Avoid topping off your gas tanks, as it forces gas which create ozone into the atmosphere.
- Try to finish all of your errands in one trip to reduce the amount of back and forth driving in your car.