Code Red: Air quality in DC area dips to new lows

Rowers skim along the Potomac River as the sun rises over the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. The temperature in the Nation's Capitol is expected to reach into the upper 80's Wednesday as spring begins to give way to summer. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)(AP/J. David Ake)

WASHINGTON — If you were gasping for air on Monday, you weren’t imagining things: The air quality in the D.C. metropolitan area was the worst it’s been in years.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Clean Air Partners said in a statement Tuesday that ground-level ozone pollution reached Code Red status on Monday — the first time since 2012, it said.

Code Orange status is not unheard-of during D.C. summers; it means children, elderly people and people with respiratory problems or sensitivities to pollution should limit their time spent outside.

Code Red is one step worse — it means that everyone could feel some health effects and should limit their outdoor activity.

Tuesday is forecast to be a Code Orange day, the statement said.

Storm Team 4 meteorologist Amelia Draper called high ozone levels “a summertime situation,” adding that heat can help cause the chemical reactions with car exhaust and other emissions that create high ozone levels.

She said the recent hot weather and high pressure have something to do with it as well: “We’ve had kind of a lack of wind, and that will help increase the levels of ozone” by not stirring the air up sufficiently to disperse it.

“When it gets hot and you don’t have a breeze … that’s when you get the high levels of ozone,” Draper said.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up