Weather phenomenon may have triggered carbon monoxide detectors overnight

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A weather phenomenon that this morning triggered several carbon monoxide detectors to go off in the city's East End neighborhood this morning could repeat Friday morning.

The National Weather Service confirmed that conditions are right for an inversion, a thin layer of the atmosphere that forms when warm air near the ground that gets cooler as it rises then increases in temperature, said Rihaan Gangat of the National Weather Service.

Pittsburgh fire and emergency services responded to some 20 calls in the East End this morning for carbon monoxide detection, said Pittsburgh Deputy Fire Chief Frank Large. The alarms were going off in homes with open windows, apparently because the gas and other pollutants were trapped closer to the ground than normal.

"What we're surmising is that it basically blocked any real air flow in the East End for whatever reason," Chief Large said.

Chief Large said firefighters attributed it to the inversion in so many cases, because fire department equipment oddly registered a greater presence of carbon monoxide outside, as opposed to inside. For a while, they thought their equipment was broken, he said.

"It's a reminder that sometimes Mother Nature can play some pretty nasty games on you," he said.

None of the levels detected were immediately dangerous, Chief Large said. An Allegheny County dispatch supervisor said no one was treated for carbon monoxide poisoning. The National Weather Service could provide no more specific information.

Ron Voorhees, acting director of the Allegheny County Health Department, warned people to take a warning from a carbon monoxide detector seriously. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that in high concentrations can cause serious health problems including death.

"People still need to make sure they don't have a real reason for their CO detectors going off," he said.

The health department issued a general air quality advisory for Pittsburgh Thursday, recommending no strenuous work outside, but included nothing specifically related to carbon monoxide. breaking - region

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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