Pollen is everywhere in the Charlotte area -- covering Lake Norman, cars and the ground.
This is one of the worst seasons for pollen in the area in the last 10 years.
Severe Weather Center 9 meteorologist Katie Virtue said it has to do with the above-average warmth Charlotte experienced all winter. Temperatures ran five degrees above normal in December and January, and nearly as high in February.
The trees responded by blooming about two weeks ahead of schedule, and now area residents are suffering the consequences. The profusion of pollination happened in just a few days instead of one to two weeks.
Dr. Gray Norris of the Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center said oak pollen peaked last April at 1,200 grains per cubic meter.
But this year, oak pollen reached 8,829 just two days ago, peaking more than two weeks earlier than usual.
The huge pollen increase is driving more patients than usual to nurse practitioner Nikki Gatton-Kendrick. She said for most allergy sufferers, over-the-counter medications can be very effective.
“If, however, they're not effective for a patient, we encourage them to come in because we can potentially write prescriptions if it's clinically appropriate to help them with their allergy symptoms that they're experiencing,” she said.
Drivers poured into an Autobell Thursday, all with the same complaint.
“I've just got to get this pollen off,” one driver said. “I can't stand it anymore.”
The pollen-covered cars have boosted business at Autobell over the past two weeks. But cleaning all that pollen sends employees reaching for the tissue box.
“They're walking around with the red eyes, sneezing and hacking also, (and) taking their allergy medicine this time of year,” said Autobell regional manager David Reep. “So it's tough on them, too.”
The good news is the area is in the peak for tree pollen right now, and it will decline over the next two weeks.
But Thursday is the first day that grass pollen levels jumped. The area will have to deal with moderate to high levels of grass pollen over the next month.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation recently released its list for the most challenging places to live with spring allergies, and Charlotte ranked 23rd, down from No. 3 three last year.
Knoxville, Tenn., topped the list again. Click here to see the full list.