SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Ahead of the Memorial Day Holiday, officials issued the first Spare the Air alert of the year, a sign of what may be ahead for the summer months as workers return to offices and the commute picks up after more than a year of remote working.
Travel this Memorial Day weekend was expected to be 60% higher compared to last year according to the American Automobile Association.
In 2020, a record 52 Spare the Air Alerts were issued for the Bay Area, with most of them coming during the peak of the wildfire season.
“With climate change things are drier and hotter so unfortunately we’ll probably see some more alerts coming down the road,” said Tina Landis of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
For now, reducing vehicle exhaust is the goal for the BAAQMD.
AAA says 4.5 million Californians are hitting the road to travel at least 50 miles this holiday weekend.
“There’s plenty of traffic and a lot of people getting out and about,” said Alan Prushan, who’s on a cross-country trip from Pennsylvania to California with family.
“Last year we were at home quarantining and not doing anything,” said Carol Prushan.
People flocked to beaches Sunday with temperatures in the 90’s in parts of the Bay Area.
“I’ve been able to take this beautiful trail and wanted to walk for a long time,” said San Jose Resident Keshav Sonbahara.
“The air, salt water and the smells are just invigorating and refreshing,” said Kara Riley.
But hotter temperatures and light winds forecast for Memorial Day have prompted officials to issue the first Spare the Air Alert of the year.
“We’re expecting to see unhealthy conditions for sensitive groups in the eastern region of the Bay Area. Today was good to moderate,” said Landis.
Air quality officials are hoping more people think about using alternative ways to travel.
“Drive less if you can. It really does impact our air quality, especially for the most vulnerable,” said Landis.
Barbeques and even backyard fire pits will still be allowed during this Spare the Air Alert.
Outdoor and indoor wood-burning bans are only issued when unhealthy levels of particulate pollution from wildfires and smoke are reached.