NEWBERRY COUNTY — If you suffer from a respiratory condition such as asthma, it might be a good idea to stay inside today.
For the first time this summer, the Midlands — Newberry, Fairfield, Saluda, Calhoun, Kershaw, Lexington and Sumter counties — could experience a Code Orange air quality alert.
According to the S.C. Bureau of Health Quality, ground-level ozone was on track to peak in Code Green or Code Yellow across the zones on Thursday afternoon. But with the weather pattern affecting the Palmetto State changing very little from Thursday to today, high pressure will continue to dominate the area.
Although upstream source regions are fairly clean, urban pluming will lead to areas of higher ozone concentrations just downwind of urban cores.
Jack Porter, an environmental health manager with the Bureau of Health Quality, said forecasters won’t know if the Midlands actually gets into a Code Orange until it happens but the chances are pretty good.
“What we are doing right now is forecasting,” Porter said. “Whether we actually exceed the standard, we won’t know until (Friday). We have forecasters who take what is happening at all of our monitors around the state and forecast an AQI.”
The AQI — the Air Quality Index — will determine which code an area falls into and help people who could be affected by polluted air make informed decisions about going outside.
Porter said that the parameters for determining the AQI have been changed and that air quality is being “graded on a stronger curve.”
DHEC monitors ozone levels from March 31 to Sept. 30 each year and provides ozone forecasts to help people make healthy decisions about outdoor activities.
When a Code Orange has been declared, people who fall into certain categories should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion. These include people with lung diseases such as asthma, children and older adults, and those who are active outdoors.
“We just want the public to be aware that we are expecting ground level ozone,” Porter said.
Patricia M. Edwards is the publisher of The Newberry Observer. You can reach her at 803-768-3117.