Haze expected to linger until West Coast gets rain
August 16, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There are so many fires burning across the West, that it's hard to say exactly where the haze is coming from these days.
"There are probably about 50 to 100 wildfires burning out West right now," said Mike Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Smoke from fires burning in California, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah and even Canada is covering the western U.S. in haze, leading to frequent air quality health advisories.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an advisory Wednesday morning for a wide swath of western Colorado, including Routt County. The alert cautions residents, especially those with health concerns, to stay indoors, particularly when visibility is less than 5 miles.
Visibility at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday was about 10 miles, according to instruments at Steamboat Springs Airport.
SMOKE CAUSES HEALTH CONCERNS
The diminished air quality is particularly dangerous for those dealing with heart disease and respiratory illnesses and the very young and the elderly. Those individuals should avoid prolonged exposure or exertion.
Those living in areas where moderate to heavy smoke is present should also limit outdoor activity, keep windows closed in the car and at home and use the recycle air feature on car air conditioners.
Smoke has reached unhealthy levels when visibility is less than 5 miles.
Source: Centers for Disease Control
In addition to high-level smoke from western wildfires, the Yampa Valley also is seeing smoke from fires closer to home.
"It's sort of a combination of two different sources for that smoke and haze that you're seeing up there," Charnick said. "For the stuff that's way up high … that's a variety of wildfires out West.
"Now there's some local sources, as well, for smoke," he said. "There's a few wildfires to the south and west of you guys."
Charnick said a southwesterly flow is bringing low-level smoke into the valley from the Cabin Lake Fire in Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
That same southwesterly flow is forecast to "transport a little bit of moisture up from the Four Corners" this afternoon, Charnick said. Higher terrain could see about one-quarter inch of rain.
"At the local level, we'll have a couple showers around in the next few days here that hopefully will help get some of the local (fires) under control," he said.
The haze is expected to continue at least for the next couple of weeks.
"Until the West Coast gets some rainfall on some of those fires out there, we're gonna at least continue to see that smoke coming in from out West," Charnick said.