Sooner this year than usual, a metro-wide Ozone Alert has been issued for Friday, May 18, and area residents are advised to limit their outdoor activity during the warmest hours.
The Mid-America Regional Council on Thursday announced the orange alert, the second-most serious category of ozone warnings, and attributed the conditions to a warmer than average May.
"It's slightly unusual but not unprecedented" for heat-related air quality to be a concern this time of year, said MARC spokeswoman Barbara Hensley. "We typically don't see these alerts until late June or early July. But it's also been unusually hot."
Normal high temperatures for mid-May run about 75 degrees, but the Kansas City area has been recently experiencing highs in the middle to upper 80s, said meteorologist Ryan Cutter of the National Weather Service station in Pleasant Hill, Mo.
Since the start of the month, "we've been looking at temperatures 5 to 10 degrees above average," he said.
MARC recommends that people schedule outdoor activities on Friday before 10 a.m. or after 7 p.m. That means not mowing yards or fueling up vehicles at midday, when ozone pollution is mostly likely to build. It can cause throat irritation and breathing problems in children, seniors or people with cardiovascular issues.
The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority will reduce fares for bus routes on Friday to encourage ridership for residents who otherwise drive, Hensley said.