By Lee Scott
One of the most remarkable things that I have noticed living along the coast in South Carolina is the blue sky in the summertime. It is just something I am not used to seeing. When we first moved down to Beaufort in 2014 and experienced our first “hot” summer, we were pleasantly surprised that even though it was hot outside, the sky was still blue.
When you live near a big city all your life, you get used to seeing a hazy white sky during the summer. Either because of the natural haze or the smog, the sky never seems to really get blue. We always had our “air quality alerts” in the Washington DC area in the summer. We got very accustomed to hearing the “color code” of the air quality index for the day. The National Weather Service posts the six colors to correspond to the range in the Air Quality Index values. The colors go from green (good air) to yellow (moderate air) to Orange (Unhealthy for sensitive groups) to Red (unhealthy) to Purple (very unhealthy) to maroon (hazardous) when reporting air quality. A large percentage of the population experiences adverse health effects when the air quality is poor.
The local weather reports always included the Air Quality index code and we were used to the orange and red codes in the summer. Those were the days when you knew it was going to be hot and hazy and you really wanted to be in air conditioning. Many towns would open community centers for people who did not have air conditioning to come in and relax. The shopping malls were always packed with people trying to breathe better air. The recommended actions on the Red Alert days included, limiting your daytime driving, using public transportation, not refueling your vehicle until after dusk and postponing the use of gasoline mowers. Anyone with respiratory disease such as asthma was warned to limit prolonged outdoor exertion. By the fall, these reports would fall away as the cooler breezes would help to bring down the AQI into the green range again.
So it is a pleasant surprise on these hot summer days here when the heat index registers above 100 degrees, that the sky is still blue. Henny Penny the sky was not falling. It was just a Code Red alert that day.