Air quality alert on May 30 just the second one for Sarasota County in seven months

Elevated ozone levels detected on Lido

This graphic shows the air quality on  Lido Beach on May 30. Image from AirNow

On May 30, for the second time in almost exactly seven months, Sarasota County staff issued an air advisory “per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) national ambient air quality standards for public health.”

This alert regarded elevated ozone levels “and/or the potential for elevated ozone levels that fall within the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ category, a county news release said. They were detected at Lido Beach, the release noted.

The advisory was in effect until midnight that day.

“Meteorological conditions (abundant sunshine, high temperatures and low relative humidity) resulted in the formation of ozone concentrations corresponding to a slightly higher index than the typical ‘good’ range,” the release explained. “Given these factors, staff found that air levels had the potential to approach unhealthy for sensitive groups,” the release added.

Individuals with respiratory ailments may experience health effects during this air advisory and may want to limit their outdoor activities,” the release pointed out.

“In 2015,” the release noted, “the EPA significantly strengthened its National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone, from the 0.075 parts per million,” which had been in place since 2008, to 0.070 parts per million. “The EPA reviews these standards every five years to determine if revisions are necessary to improve public health and protect plants and sensitive ecosystems,” the release said.

The Sarasota County Air Program has monitored air quality since 1985, the release continued. The program reports its findings to community residents through the Air Quality Index, “alerting residents of current air quality conditions and pollutants in Sarasota County,” the release pointed out. “With four monitoring stations located throughout the county, data is presented in real-time for levels of ozone and other particulate matter that can impact at-risk residents such as those with asthma or respiratory conditions,” the release added.

Sarasota County meets all national air quality standards, and the county’s air quality continues to improve as a result of local, state and federal policies,” the release noted.

Prior to the May 30 alert, in early October 2023, staff issued a warning of “current elevated Particulate Matter (PM2.5) levels that fall within the ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ category, per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) national ambient air quality standards for public health.”

That advisory explained, “PM2.5 are inhalable particles that are small enough to enter the bloodstream. The elevated levels were detected today, Oct. 3, 2023, at both the Bee Ridge and Jackson Road air monitoring stations.”

The Bee Ridge station is in Sarasota, while the Jackson Road station is in Venice.

The cause then was Canadian wildfires, as The Sarasota News Leader reported. The website showed that on Oct. 3, 2023, the air quality index (AQI) for Sarasota was 143, which is in the range that the EPA classifies as unsafe for sensitive groups. That range is 101 to 150. The “Health Message” for that level of AQI is “Sensitive groups should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.”

When the News Leader checked the Air Quality Index for the county on June 4, the number was 53, described as “Moderate.” The range for that descriptor, the webpage said, is 51 to 100. The health warning for that level notes, “Air quality is acceptable. However, there may be a risk for some people, particularly those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.” Such people “should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion.”

Just before 10 a.m. on June 2, ABC7 in Sarasota reported, “Fire crews continued to work Sunday morning to contain a brush fire in North Port near Sultan Avenue and Lown Street. The fire began last night just after 5 p.m., quickly spreading to eventually cover more than 75 acres of forest.

“Multiple homes were evacuated as the fire spread,” ABC7 staff continued, but as of the morning of June 2, no injuries had been reported, and nearby residents said that no homes had “been severely damaged.

This aerial map shows the intersection of Sultan Avenue and Lown Street. Image from Google Maps

“As of 7:30 a.m.,” the staff article added, “crews continued to patrol the area to find and put out any small fires that may still be burning in the area, and the Florida Forest Service [was] reporting 85% containment.” The article pointed out that the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 “were briefly closed” the previous evening in North Port because of smoke, “with traffic being diverted off the interstate at Toledo Blade Boulevard. All lanes were reopened by 8 p.m.”

During the June 4 Sarasota County Commission meeting, Chair Michael Moran alluded to the fires and expressed his appreciation to the firefighters who had battled them.

Sarasota County staff did implement a burn ban on May 5, because of drought conditions.

This City of North Port posted this photos from North Port Fire Rescue on its Facebook page on June 1.

On its website, the Southwest Florida Water Management District provides daily hydrologic reports. As of June 3, Sarasota County had received 0.38 inches of rain thus far for the month, with June’s monthly average put at 7.65.

Since Jan. 1, the chart showed, the county had received only 9.73 inches of rain. The cumulative 12-month figure was 39.12 inches; yet, the cumulative 12-month average is 52.58, the chart showed. Moreover, the cumulative 12-month percentile was 1%, the chart noted.

Image courtesy Southwest Florida Water Management District

For more information about air quality in the county, the May 30 news release said, the public may dial 311 or visit

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