Stormy weather traps heavy pollution, forcing federal agents to shut down some roads

Cold and stormy weather has been blamed for Toronto’s largest average daily jump in health and environment pollution this year.

While the nation’s biggest city has been unusually dry and sunny for much of the past month, a cold front brought heavy rains, snow and gusty winds to much of eastern Ontario, causing the sylvatic atmosphere to produce excessive levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

The last time the Ontario capital’s top two air pollutants — CO and nitrogen dioxide — exceeded safe limits was Feb. 25, when Ontario recorded a daily average of 14.4 standard or higher cases of COvD 19, Canada’s second-highest measurement.

The daily average surpassed what’s considered the threshold of 20 emissions of such particles, according to national data.

Ontario’s ongoing record-setting stormy weather since late fall was not necessarily a reason for the spike, but likely contributed to the environment’s misbehaving, said Erin Khadiksy, a spokeswoman for the ministry.

“We’re getting a lot of storms that are very unstable and very windy,” she said. “Those conditions can cause an increased presence of COvD and nitrogen dioxide from vehicles and other engines.”

The higher seasonal pollution will likely persist, and could push air quality to the country’s highest-ever levels, the ministry said.

The day before it recorded the highest COvD ranking, the biggest city in Canada was blamed for the second-largest unauthorized daily incident of ozone pollution in eastern Ontario’s terms.

Drivers had to be temporarily halted from traveling onto the University of Toronto’s main campus and from entering parts of the city on Feb. 22 as over-the-air air scrubbers sought to stave off the threat of ozone.

Under Ontario regulations, pollution levels of low, or “moderate,” must not exceed 55 parts per billion. High levels of ozone, or smog, must never exceed 100 parts per billion, but higher than that and in a driving-free zone are deemed illegal.

The day after the alert was issued, Ontario recorded 47 standard or higher cases of ozone in an hourly average from Feb. 22 to 23.

Ontario’s environment ministry said it will take the cold and stormy weather into account when setting air quality standards throughout the coming months.

The haze caused by the increased pollution triggered some small secondary-aromatic reactions, such as coughing and throat irritation, in the city, according to The Independent.

On Thursday evening, the city posted a message urging people to drive cars less to reduce ozone emissions, though the breathing ban on early-morning hours has been lifted. The city of Toronto has worked to lower ozone levels significantly, and more than 50 communities have reduced illegal driving hours by more than 80 percent this year, according to the city.

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