WILDFIRE

WATCH: Massive smoke clouds from wildfires darken West Coast sky

Sep 10, 2020, 6:00 AM | Updated: 6:06 am

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hazy clouds of smoke from dozens of wildfires darkened the sky to an eerie orange glow over much of the West Coast on Wednesday, keeping street lights illuminated during the day and putting residents on edge.

The California Highway Patrol urged drivers to turn on their headlights and slow down. Social media was filled with photos of the unusual sky, and many people complained that their cellphone cameras weren’t accurately capturing the golden hues.

“It’s really just strange and ominous outside, it feels like I should be in bed sleeping,” said Aamir Vaid, who canceled plans to have lunch in downtown San Francisco because of the dark sky.

While satellites show a towering band of smoke hovering along the coast, there was little scent of smoke and the air quality index did not reach unhealthy levels. That’s because fog drifting from the Pacific Ocean was sandwiched between the smoke and ground. And smoke particles above the marine layer were acting like a filter, scattering blue light and only allowing yellow, orange and red light to reach the ground, said Ralph Borrmann, a spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The smoke blocked out so much sunlight that a forecast for temperatures to climb to 90 degrees (32 Celsius) instead dipped to the 60s (15.5 Celsius) as though “we’re in perpetual morning without the sun to help us warm up,” said Drew Peterson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Bay Area office.

Some of the smoke settled in San Francisco Bay and formed a 15-mile (24-kilometer) trail of ash along the tidal line, the U.S. Coast Guard said.



Borrmann said the conditions were expected to linger until Friday. By then, the district expects to issue its 25th consecutive Spare The Air alert requiring residents to cut pollution — the longest stretch since the program began in 1991. The alerts began Aug. 18 after thousands of lightning strikes ignited three massive wildfires to the north, south and east of San Francisco.

The previous streak was 14 days of alerts in 2018 when the Bay Area was choked by smoke from a fire that devastated the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

This time, strong winds from the north and northeast pushed smoke from devastating wildfires in the Sierra Nevada foothills and in Oregon and Washington state into lower elevations. A fire that exploded in size Tuesday and prompted evacuation orders for some 20,000 people in Oroville sent the air quality index in Sacramento to a hazardous reading at one point.

Poor visibility because of the dark sky also prevented California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, from doing some aerial inspections needed to restore power to about 167,000 customers, spokesman Jeff Smith said. The power was deliberately cut Monday to try to prevent power lines from sparking wildfires in windy weather.

 

Air quality warnings also were issued throughout the Pacific Northwest, and people in communities from southern Oregon to north of Seattle have seen blood-red skies and choking smoke.

“It was scary. Especially as red as the sky was,” said Patricia Fouts, who evacuated from a senior living center because of a massive fire east of Salem, Oregon.

Winds coming from the Pacific Ocean will likely keep pushing the smoke across the U.S. West, worsening air quality, said Roger Gass, another weather service meteorologist.

In Denver, a thick blanket of haze covered the skyline, obstructing mountain views typically visible from the city.

Scott Landes, chief air quality meteorologist for Colorado’s health department, said a cold front improved air quality but the state may start getting a new wave of smoke over the weekend because of drier, warmer temperatures.

In Phoenix, the sky was finally blue after a cold front swept through, keeping wildfire smoke west and southwest of Arizona. Reno, Nevada, also saw blue for the first time in days after air quality reached a hazardous level a day earlier, prompting the Washoe County School District to cancel all in-classroom lessons.

“Everybody wants to know, when is this going to get better,” Gass said. “We have to remember, as long as the fires keep burning, they’re going to continue to produce smoke.”

___

Associated Press writers Chris Grygiel in Seattle, Paul Davenport in Phoenix, Janie Har and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco, Patty Nieberg in Denver and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, and Tom Tait in Las Vegas contributed to this story.

Today’s Top Stories

Wildfire

On Friday, fire officials managing the Left Fork Fire announced residents of Bryce Woodlands Estate...
Mark Jones

Bryce Woodlands Estate residents allowed to return home in Kane County

Kane County emergency personnel, overseeing the Left Fork Fire, announced Friday residents of Bryce Woodlands Estate will be allowed to return home Saturday.
3 days ago
On Friday, fire officials managing the Left Fork Fire announced residents of Bryce Woodlands Estate...
Mark Jones

Evacuations issued for Bryce Woodlands Estates due to Left Fork Fire

Residents in the Bryce Woodland Estates were recommended to evacuate the area by emergency personnel Tuesday due to the Left Fork Fire.
6 days ago
A fire engine is seen as the Sheep fire burns in Wrightwood, Calif., Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Pho...
Curt Gresseth

Be Ready Utah: What to do when wildfires close in on your home

Will you be ready if wildfires close in on your home? A survivor of a wildfire shares his experience and an expert shares tips and advice.
6 days ago
FILE - President Joe Biden greets firefighters as he tours the National Interagency Fire Center, Se...
AAMER MADHANI Associated Press

Biden signs off on hefty pay raise for federal firefighters

The move announced Tuesday affects more than 16,000 firefighters and comes as much of the West braces for a difficult wildfire season.
6 days ago
Lindon City announced on its Facebook which areas will have firework restrictions and when firework...
Devin Oldroyd

Lindon City announces firework restrictions

Lindon City announced on its Facebook which areas will have firework restrictions and when fireworks will be permitted.
7 days ago
Lehi City announces firework restrictions in some areas of the city. Photo credit: Lehi City....
Devin Oldroyd

As summer holidays approach, Lehi City announces firework restrictions

Lehi City announces firework restrictions in some areas of the city.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
WATCH: Massive smoke clouds from wildfires darken West Coast sky