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RED AIR ALERT

August 26th, 2010

KSL News
By Nicole Gonzales

NORTHERN UTAH — The Division of Air Quality is calling Wednesday one of the worst air days this summer. It’s a “Red” air alert day, one of the very few declared in the Salt Lake Valley so far this season.

In fact, most people were surprised to learn it was a red air day. Unless you’re above the gunk in the air, from the valley floor it’s difficult to see.

From above the capitol, you can see an opaque white blanket that covers the valley. But from Liberty Park in downtown Salt Lake City, it looked like a beautiful day.

“I can’t say that I’ve really noticed a difference in the air quality. I think it’s been really nice,” said David Jolley, who enjoyed the sunshine Wednesday afternoon.

“If I had known that I probably would have done something indoors today,” said Lisa Mountain, who was in the park with her son Liam. “It looks like a beautiful day and you’d think it’d be fine.”

The Division of Air Quality says it’s one of the worst air quality days of the summer.

“It’s been really nice and we kind of expected it to carry on, but we’re getting a late blast of high ozone,” said Bo Call with the Division of Air Quality. “It could very well be impacted by the fires up in Idaho coming down.”

The Long Butte Fire in southern Idaho has burned about 500 square miles. That smoke may be affecting our air.

“Forest fires do contribute to the base components of ozone, pollution and NOx, so they can have an effect,” Call said.

Right now there’s a lot of ozone in the air in the Salt Lake Valley, which is when sunlight interacts with pollution in the atmosphere. A red alert day means the pollution is at least 75 parts per billion.

Most counties along the Wasatch Front were impacted Wednesday. As usual, on red air days people are supposed to limit driving and cut down on outdoor activities.

Most residents, though, had no clue.

“That’s what’s kind of scary,” Mountain said. “You think everything is fine and then you realize that it’s actually a problem.”

Thursday, the temperature is supposed to rise to about 98 degrees, so the same conditions may be in effect then.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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