The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued a new Air Quality Alert that includes the Rochester area. State officials say elevated ozone levels in the lower atmosphere are predicted to push the air quality index into the range that is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups on Friday.

The alert will be in effect from noon until 8 PM for southern, eastern and sections of central Minnesota. That area covers Rochester, the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Marshall, and the Tribal Nation of Upper Sioux. Officials say the air quality will likely worsen during the afternoon and early evening hours, before improving around sunset.

The sensitive groups that could be impacted by the higher ozone levels include young children, elderly citizens, along with people with respiratory diseases. The effects may also be felt by anyone doing physical work or exercising outdoors.

While the alert is in effect, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency urges everyone to minimize the use of vehicles, postpone the use of lawnmowers and other small gas powered equipment, and the avoid burning wood.