Washoe Co. air quality still unhealthy for sensitive groups
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10 PM Sunday Update:
Regional air quality remains unhealthy for sensitive groups, including the elderly, the young, and those with respiratory or heart disease. Everyone should avoid prolonged exertion. Washoe County officials say they anticipate the smoke to continue affecting the area for at least the early part of the week.
5PM Friday Update:
Health officials in Reno report that the air quality index is in the red, unhealthy zone for the general population and has reached a peak reading of 195 this afternoon.
The "very unhealthy" zone requires a reading of more than 200.
The Washoe County health district says they anticipate the smoke to impact the Reno/Sparks area tonight through Tuesday.
Renown Health reports that it is seeing more patients with respiratory issues today over yesterday due to the Rim Fire smoke.
Noon Friday Update:
Health officials in smoky Reno have raised the seriousness of an air quality alert to include the general population as a thick haze worsens from a massive wildfire burning more than 150 miles away at Yosemite National Park.
The Washoe County Health District says the air quality index pushed into the red, unhealthy zone Friday with a peak reading of 171.
School officials canceled all outdoor activities in Carson City, Washoe and Douglas counties.
Officials issued an initial alert Thursday for sensitive populations when the index surpassed 100. The 150 level triggers the red alert indicating even people without respiratory conditions may be affected.
Everyone is urged to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. Such activities should be avoided altogether by the elderly, young and people with heart or lung disease.
The smoke flowing into Reno, Carson and the Tahoe Basin is still thick Friday morning and in some places visibility is down to a mile. That smoke is coming from the Rim Fire burning near Yosemite National Park, which tripled in size yesterday. It currently stands at about 165 square miles with only 2 percent contained so far.
Kat Hohmann is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He says the smoke may subside a bit in the late morning and early afternoon.
"But with the heat of the day today and if additional smoke is released, we expect the smoke to once again pour into the Tahoe Basin and Western Nevada region and probably be as thick as it was last night."
Hohmann says the Rim Fire is producing most of the smoke, however, it may also come from the American Fire in the Tahoe National Forest, depending on the winds. That fire has burned almost 20,000 acres and is about 66 percent contained as of Friday morning.
"The winds are going to pick up a little bit on Sunday as a little trough passes by to the north. But overall a southwest wind is going to prevail. So as long as the fires keeping burning and putting up smoke, we may be seeing smoke around here for awhile."
Hohmann says the atmosphere has stabilized and there should be no storms coming into the region for the next week. Air quality officials throughout the region are urging residents to keep an eye on the air quality index (AQI).
Yesterday, Washoe County said the air quality index jumped from 50 in the morning to 130 in the afternoon. If the index surpasses 150, the general population likely would experience some health effects. Friday morning, Washoe County listed the AQI as 160. They advise that sensitive people should stay indoors with windows closed and the air conditioning on, and everyone else should avoid spending too much time outside.
For more information about current air quality conditions go here.