Pollen fallout blankets area
Pine pollen wears on residents' health and patience
It falls like a snow, persistent and unforgiving. From a distance, it can resemble a cloud of smoke.
It is pine pollen, seasonal scourge of the city and suburbs, covering hundreds of cars and driveways. And this year, it’s especially intense, a gunky byproduct of a warm winter and largely dry, windy spring that conspired to bring more pollen, earlier, to New England.
“We have to spray it off the deck and driveways and keep the windows closed so it doesn’t get inside,” Tom Murphy, of Walpole, said. “It is a pain.”
On Wednesday, Murphy did battle with the yellow pollen coating his driveway and garden, in preparation for a graduation party. The three cars in his driveway were still covered in yellow. And he wasn’t alone. His next-door neighbors had a blanket of yellow on their cars, driveway, and porch.
He sprays and sprays -- every other day -- and still can’t rid himself of the relentless residue.
“This is the worst it has ever been,” said Murphy, who has lived in his home for 14 years. “It’s been so thick, and it’s just day after day.”
For Debbie Carr of Norfolk, the pollen is more than just an aesthetic nuisance. It’s affecting her health.
“I take Allegra-D,” Carr said. “If I didn’t, I would not be breathing right now.”
Carr sprays her deck almost almost daily so that the pollen will not creep inside her home. No matter what she does, it sneaks in. When she heard forecasters predict rain for Tuesday, she figured that would provide relief.
“My car was covered in pollen, and I didn’t want that getting into the garage. I left my car outside, in hopes that the rain would clear it out,” Carr said on Wednesday. “But it didn’t rain.”
Even if it had, it would not have solved Carr’s problems, an allergy specialist said.
“Some thunderstorms have been shown to increase pollen counts because you get winds with it, and these big huge raindrops splattering off the leaves throw more pollen into the atmosphere,” said Dr. Donald Accetta, an allergy and asthma specialist in Taunton. “What we need is a good soaking like we normally have in April, not these enormous rainstorms.”
According to Accetta, few people are highly allergic to pine pollen because it’s a large pollen grain and those usually don’t trigger an allergic response.
But many people loath how it looks on their cars, which is why carwash owners welcome the pollen infestation.
“We refer to pollen as gold dust,” said Joe Solis, marketing director for Wash Depot Holdings Inc., which owns carwash outlets in four Boston suburbs.
Anthony Scherrer, assistant manager at Auto Bright Car Wash in Framingham, said this year’s bounty of pollen has made springtime as good for business as a winter laden with snow and salt.
“We love it -- we’re doing a lot of business,” Scherrer said. “We’re doing as well right now as we do in the winter, which is our good time because of the salt.”
Matt Walker of Boston was visiting his in-laws in Walpole on Wednesday and decided to wash his car before heading out for a wedding. He said he noticed the pollen in the city, but that was nothing compared to the pollen pocking the suburbs.
“My mother-in-law’s car was covered in it,” Walker said.
Several carwash businesses have created programs that guarantee customers a clean car for up to 48 hours, or several days. ScrubaDub Auto Wash in Natick even has a program that allows people to wash their car every day.
“It is incredibly popular,” said company president Danny Paisner. “We’ve had a few thousand people in the unlimited program, but in the last few weeks, we’ve had well over 100 new enrollees probably because of the pollen.”
Some residents refuse to flock to a carwash. Walpole resident William T. Hamilton’s navy blue Crown Victoria is now a bright greenish-yellow, and he doesn’t plan on changing that anytime soon.
“I would have to keep washing it and washing it. I’ll just let the rain wash it off,” Hamilton said. “If I go wash it, it’ll just get on it all over again.”