In fact, air quality in northern California on Thursday was the worst in the world, even worse than notoriously smoggy cities in India and China, according to Purple Air, an air quality monitoring network. Both of those major metropolitan areas had air ...
Doyle Rice USA TODAY
Published 4:28 PM EST Nov 15, 2018
The flames from the devastating wildfires in northern California may be slowly diminishing, but the noxious smoke from the blazes continues to choke the air for millions of people in both Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area.
In fact, air quality in northern California on Thursday was the worst in the world, even worse than notoriously smoggy cities in India and China, according to Purple Air, an air quality monitoring network.
Both of those major metropolitan areas had air that was classified as either "unhealthy" or "very unhealthy," the Environmental Protection Agency said.
The smoky air made for a bad start to the workday for Thursday commuters, the East Bay Times reported.
In San Jose, Hyun Gyu Park said it reminded him of the air quality in his native Korea, and he wondered whether he should be wearing an air filter. “I see a lot of people wearing gas masks,” Park, 23, told the East Bay Times, “and I feel I should be doing the same thing, too.”
The National Weather Service has posted an "air quality alert" for a large chunk of the state, which will be in effect until the fires are extinguished.
The smoke has canceled classes for tens of thousands of university students in the region, forced school recesses to be held indoors and also spurred on a record number of internet searches for smoke masks.
In Sacramento County, the health department said school districts should "minimize the smoke exposure to students by canceling or moving all outdoor activities such as recess, PE and after-school athletics indoors."
Instead of wearing masks, county officials said the best advice is just to avoid spending time outside: "Wearing a mask may encourage outdoor activity when staying indoors is the best way to minimize exposure to smoke," the Sacramento County Public Health Office said.
Wildfire smoke can cause or worsen a number of health problems, including reduced lung function, infectious bronchitis, asthma and heart failure, according to the EPA.
Google reported Thursday that searches for smoke masks are at the highest level in Google's history.
Earlier this week, some fans attending the NFL game between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers wore masks to deal with any air quality issues, AccuWeather said. Oxygen tanks were also provided on the sidelines for players.
"Smoke and haze will continue to produce poor air quality over much of the San Francisco Bay through late week," the National Weather Service in San Francisco said.
There is some good news in the weather forecast for both the fires and smoke: The weather service said Thursday that "a more significant pattern change appears likely during the latter half of next week with the potential for widespread rainfall."
The deadly and destructive Camp Fire, the source of most of the smoke, is now 40 percent contained and covers 140,000 acres, state fire agency Cal Fire said Thursday. That's up from 30 percent on Wednesday.
The fire, which has burned through about 220 square miles in Butte County, has left a wrenching toll: at least 56 people confirmed dead and 130 missing; about 9,000 homes and businesses destroyed, of which 8,800 are single-family homes.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Published 4:28 PM EST Nov 15, 2018
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