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Another ozone action day

| Thursday, June 26, 2003

Today is the third ozone action day in a row declared in western Pennsylvania.

High temperatures and high humidity have created a dangerous mix, according to the Southwest Pennsylvania Ozone Action Partnership.

An ozone action day is declared when ground-level ozone concentrations are expected to become unhealthy, based on federal standards. Ozone concentrations build during the day, peaking in late afternoon. Reducing ozone-producing activities during the day can help reduce levels.

Residents should:

— Limit daytime driving, combine errands

— Ride the bus or carpool

— Mow lawns in the evening

— Save energy by not over-cooling homes and businesses

— Wash dishes and clothes with full loads in cold water, when possible

— Don't top off the gasoline tank

— Avoid prolonged idling and jackrabbit starts

— Use latex rather than oil-based paints.

These actions could make a real difference, according to Betsy Mallison at the Department of Environmental Protection. "Wednesday's ozone levels approached unhealthful for sensitive groups, and Monday we were over federal limits for ozone. If we have more than three days over the limits, the region could face sanctions by the Environmental Protection Agency."

Sensitive individuals include the elderly, young children and individuals with chronic disease or compromised immune systems.

According to the American Red Cross, such people should avoid going outdoors on ozone action days, or postponing outdoor activity until the evenings.

A break may be coming, however.

While Larry Smith, of the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, predicts that today's high will approach 90 degrees, showers may arrive tonight, bringing temperatures down to the upper 60s.

Friday's high should only reach the upper 70s, with a chance of showers. Saturday should be clear, with highs in the 70s, and Sunday will likely see showers and temperatures in the upper 70s.

Audra Shenk, co-owner of Brilhart Hardware in Scottdale, said that sales of fans and air conditioners has been slow so far. "It had been cool enough and people made it through the last few days. When we have more than a week straight of hot weather, they'll be in."

This week's sudden arrival of summer, with a high Monday of 84 degrees, 87 on Tuesday and 88 on Wednesday, was not quite a record-breaker.

According to Smith, the record for June 25 was reached in 1988, a scorching 98 degrees.

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