High winds, dry air trigger flurry of pollen in Houston

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by Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 6:45 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 25 at 7:00 AM

HOUSTON -- Drop by a little garden shop Houston’s Heights any Sunday and you’ll probably run into Patsy Finigan, watering plants.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine not doing this on weekends.”

For almost a decade, she’s worked a part-time job at a quaint little nursery called “Another Place in Time,” a popular place for backyard gardeners to buy everything from tomato vines to bougainvilleas. The work brings her joy, especially this time of year.

“I always love it when all the trees come back out,” she said. “It’s like, yes, it’s spring.”

Only one thing bothers her about springtime, especially this year: All that pollen.

“I was fine,” she said on the first Sunday of spring. “I started sneezing about twenty minutes ago. Usually it doesn’t bother me, but it’s floating everywhere.”

The pollen’s not only floating through the air, its gathering on the ground and coating city streets with a distinctive green powder. Some streets around Houston are littered with piles of droppings that tumbled from blooming trees, all a product of an especially noxious allergy season.

High winds and dry weather have combined to deliver heavy pollen counts to most areas of Texas. Four of the five cities with the heaviest pollen counts in the nation on Sunday were in the Lone Star State, according to Pollen.com, which tracks data from across the country. (The worst was Laredo. The fifth was Shreveport, which is literally within walking distance of the Texas border.)

The dusty days of spring effect as many as 35-million Americans afflicted with hay fever, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The fine powder spewed forth by trees, weeds and grasses fertilizes other plants, but it also triggers sniffles, sneezes, stuffy noses and sore throats.

At the Bayou City Arts Festival in Houston’s Memorial Park, artists and park guests complained about unexpected allergy problems. Kaitlin Jaschek rubbed her eyes as she pushed a stroller around the park.

“My eyes keeping crying, so it’s acting up,” she said.

But around Houston, the stuff sits most visible on cars and trucks, leaving a fine green powder that drives many motorists to wash their cars every day.

“This is the time of year I hate for a black truck, because it’s pollen,” said Oden Carroll, running a finger across the hood of his pick-up. “Every morning you got to try to wash it. And then, it’d be right back on.”

On the first Sunday of spring, a sunny but windy day when you could sometimes see pollen swirling through the air, car washes were crowded with drivers spraying away the unwanted green coating. The pollen forecast indicated Sunday would be the worst day of the week for allergy sufferers, but the first half of the week is still expected to bring high pollen counts.

“Just deal with it,” Finigan said as she watered the plants at her nursery. “It’s not going to go away. And I’m not going to stay inside.”

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