Unexpected, unhealthy air makes its way to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

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If you plan to head to the mountains this weekend, you may be surprised to know that the air there is not always cleaner. (KFSN)

Visalia, like many others in the Valley, saw unhealthy air quality. But if you plan to head to the mountains this weekend, you may be surprised to know that the air there is not always cleaner.

It's peak ozone season, and believe it or not some of the highest local levels, and poorest air quality can be found in the national parks. If you go to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, you expect it to be a little cooler than the Valley below. Many also expect to breathe cleaner air in these higher elevations.

"I would think it would be better air quality up here, but I guess not," said Lynn Lancto, Massachusetts.

"They're going to put that in the top five easily. And when you come here, that's not always the case," said Annie Esperanza, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Friday was a red day on the air quality index at the park, meaning unhealthy for all. In fact, ozone levels here were higher than Visalia and about even with Fresno.

Ozone and particulate matter levels at the park are measured and recorded at the Ash Mountain Air Monitoring Site. Esperanza has been the air resources specialist there of more than 30 years. She said when an air EDDY is produced in the Valley, it becomes a collection point of pollutants from around California.

"And on warm uprising winds, and we're feeling it right now, that pollution is moving up the canyons and it moves quite easily into Sequoia and Kings Canyon."

She said high heat, sunlight, and human activities from agriculture to autos, all factor into high ozone levels. Wildfires also contribute to overall air pollution in the valley and the mountains.

"We're advising people to stay inside, stay in an air-conditioned environment that helps filter out the smoke. If you have to be outside, maybe you work outside, try to take it easy, drink lots of water and of course talk to your doctor if you think you're having any health impact from the air pollution out there," said Jaime Holt, Valley Air District .

Valley air officials advise against visiting the park if it's in the red. But for those who go anyway's, they may get some simple advice.

"The things they do hundreds or thousands of miles away makes a difference in these parks," said Esperanza.

Of all the National Parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon rank number one in terms of ozone pollution.
Related Topics:
healthheatheat waveair qualitynational park servicesequoia national forestSequoia National ParkKings Canyon National Park
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