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Thursday, June 8, 2023

We're not out of the smoke yet. Meteorologists expect the smog from Canadian wildfires to remain over central Virginia until sometime this weekend.

Things are looking (and smelling) pretty bad today. As of 11 a.m. the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality escalated its air quality alert for central Virginia to “very unhealthy,” which means that even healthy adults will start noticing symptoms from breathing the smoke.

Credit: Erin O'Hare/Collectbritain

State escalates air quality alert in central Virginia to ‘very unhealthy,' warns people to limit activity outside

The full alert reads: “Significant aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in people with cardiopulmonary disease and older adults; significant increase in respiratory effects in the general population.”

Those effects might include headaches, eye, sinus and throat irritation, difficulty breathing, fatigue or chest pain, according to the National Weather Service.

“The effects of air pollution on people can be minimized by avoiding strenuous outdoor activity or exercising indoors,” according to the National Weather Service. “Go indoors if you have symptoms.”

Credit: Erin O'Hare/Collectbritain

Meteorologists expect smoke from Canada to remain over central Virginia until the weekend

The reason this is happening has to do with wind direction. Right now there is an area of low atmospheric pressure lingering over New England and the wind is moving counterclockwise around that area. It's the perfect weather pattern for that wind to grab up smoke from the hundreds of wildfires burning in eastern Canada and sling it south over the Mid Atlantic and into Virginia.

“But there's light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dan Salkovitz, a meteorologist with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “We expect the winds to start to shift, maybe even by tomorrow [Friday], certainly by Saturday or Sunday.”

The state measures air quality in central Virginia from a station at Albemarle High School. You can keep track of those air quality readings at this link. The site will take you to a map of Virginia. Click on the box near Charlottesville.

Main takeaway: If you don't have to be outside today — don't!

Stay safe everyone,

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

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