Quick Warm up Comes With Downside, Lower Air Quality

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The weekend warm up gave Iowans who got stir-crazy a chance to get outside, but that could actually put some people’s health at risk.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says when snow and ice melt this quickly, it can actually lower air quality. That’s why they are warning Iowans with respiratory issues or heart disease, the elderly and children to limit long periods of outdoor activity.

In a matter of five days, central Iowa has seen a temperature shift of 69 degrees from a low of -20 degrees early Wednesday morning, to a high of 49 degrees Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a bit bizarre,” Kaila Legget said. “I went to church this morning and someone was wearing shorts. Just the other day, people were in three, four, five layers not wanting to go outside at all.”

While it’s a bit sloppy and a bit muddy, it did not stop people like Legget and her dog, Hamm, from taking advantage of the warm up.

“Yeah, it’s going to be quite the bath. That’s for sure,” Legget said. “We definitely needed to get out of the house, [though]. He loves to be outside and this cold weather has just been pretty unbearable for him.”

Raccoon River Park was just one of the many places around the metro filled with people wanting to get outside.

“Well let me tell you, I’m a walker so I have to walk around the neighborhood. If it’s too icy, then I have to stay inside and keep vacuuming, and vacuuming because I’m so restless,” Sue Nestvedt said.

But this quick thaw can cause some problems for people outdoors. According to the Iowa DNR, when snow and ice melt rather quickly, it generates fog and leads to elevated fine particulate levels, meaning a lower air quality.

The air quality index meter is tinkering right on the line of moderate to good on Sunday, but still, the Iowa DNR is recommending some of the vulnerable to limit long outdoor exertion during this period of decreased air quality.

This fog can do more than just lower air quality. It can also affect visibility. On Sunday there was a report of a head on crash in Guthrie Center citing dense fog as the cause.


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