State of emergency

What’s in the air an ongoing concern across river

As the rains moved in Monday and winds changed direction many shared concerns in southern Washington County over whether their air was safe to breathe.

“It was a pretty strong smell this morning,” said Sara Johnson, the desk clerk at Straightline Collision in Porterfield. “There was smoke covering the other side of the river over the bridge and my little brother even came inside when he was waiting for the bus because he noticed the smell.”

Johnson’s 9-year-old brother goes to Little Hocking Elementary, she said.

“It’s something to be concerned about but if you’re smelling it at home you’re smelling it at school too,” she noted. “My mom told him he still needed to go to school though so he just waited inside until the bus came.”

Kyle Newton, superintendent of Warren Local Schools, said the district wasn’t jumping to close schools like Wood County had done because of the same logic Johnson outlined. Wood County schools also were closed today.

“With the demographics of our district if they’re not at school they’re probably at home breathing the same air,” said Newton. “It doesn’t make sense to send our students home or home early especially if parents aren’t going to be home. If things change we’ll take our direction from the (Washington County Emergency Management Agency). We’re not going to overreact so we’re not causing unnecessary panic.”

Newton said no move was made in the schools to have face masks with filters for any of the students since the rain kept students inside Monday during recess.

Janssen Kesterson, 21, of Barlow, said she could see the smoke from her home before driving into work in Belpre at Bob’s Market and Greenhouse.

“And it was really hazy and smelled like burnt plastic,” she explained. “We talked about the smell this morning and wondered if it would affect people’s breathing so we chose to close the doors of the greenhouse to keep that smell out of here.”

Amber Batten, 22, of Belpre, said she even had to clean off residue from her car because of the debris in the air.

“I went to the mall and there were black specks all over my car,” she said.

Jerry Satow, manager of The Village Gifts in Little Hocking, said she was concerned for people who may already have trouble breathing in normal conditions.

“I have allergies all the time anyway,” she explained. “But what about the people with worse lungs? If you already have breathing problems and the wind blows it your way it could be pretty bad.”

Satow said if the cloud stretched farther after the rain out into Little Hocking she would consider closing the store until it passed.

“My son even called me yesterday, saying to not go to Belpre if I didn’t have to,” she said.

Though officials monitored the air quality throughout Washington County, no alerts were given throughout the day.