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Oklahoma's ozone levels spike as heat wave continues

Oklahoma officials say the record heat wave has contributed to higher ozone levels this summer.
BY BRYAN DEAN Published: August 25, 2011

Oklahoma City broke its record this week for days of triple digit heat in one year. Wednesday marked the 53rd day of 100 degree-plus temperatures, besting the old mark of 50 days set in 1980.

As bad as the heat has been this summer, Goeller said he is surprised ozone levels haven't been worse.

“We've had a lot of heat, but a lot of it has come from the southwest, which is a clean direction for us,” Goeller said.

What to do

The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments coordinates a public education campaign about ozone levels highlighted by ozone alert days, when people are encouraged to fill up their gas tanks in the evening and put off lawn mowing to keep ozone down.

Darla Hugaboom, associate planner for the group, said the campaign has generally been effective.

“We are having a terrible ozone year, but that's only compared to the last three years or so,” Hugaboom said. “If you go back five or 10 years, that's not the case. It has constantly improved over the last 15 years.”

Hugaboom said the response to ozone alert days has improved as more people get the message about things they are not supposed to do on those days.

Though ozone levels have generally improved in the past decade, the federally mandated standards for ozone levels are also getting lower, meaning it will be harder for the city to stay in compliance, Hugaboom said.

Still, she said she's confident that the combination of improved technology and public awareness about the issue will help the city do its part.

“In as little as five years, we could be better than we are now. As we have these lower standards looming, we have to look at the things we can do,” Hugaboom said.


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