Central Texas is under an Ozone Watch today and tomorrow.
Watches are usually issued during the summer months when the temperatures are higher and humidity is lower. And so far this year the area is already dangerously close to exceeding EPA standards. Austin sits at a 74 parts-per-billion average for ozone. If that average jumps to 75 PPB, the area will be in non-compliance.
“If we get one day at one site in particular, like our Northwest Austin site which has a 79 parts-per-billion eight-hour average … one more at that level will throw us into non-compliance," says Bryan Lambeth, senior meteorologist at Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Deana Altenhoff, Executive Director of the CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas, agrees. "Ozone season ends October 31st," Altenhoff says. "This is our most critical time of the year because historically this is when we see our highest levels of ozone."
Central Texas is experiencing ozone levels similar to last year. But since we’re not out of ozone season yet, Lambeth hopes Central Texans will take steps to reduce emissions.
"Most of the emissions in Austin come from vehicle traffic. So reducing the amount of travel that you do in your car, car-pooling as much as possible, or riding a bike if you want. These are all actions that people can take to reduce ozone levels," Lambeth says.
Today and tomorrow’s watches are designated Level Orange. This means the air quality may be unhealthy for sensitive groups. Young children and the elderly may be affected, as well as people with chronic lung disease, asthma and emphysema.
Capital Area Council of Governments air quality program specialist Andrew Hoekzema says that runners should wait until this evening to hit the trails.