Sacramento-area residents woke up to sun and fresh air Thursday after wind patterns blew smoke from the wine country fires into the Bay Area, creating a hazardous layer of air pollution there.
“Yesterday, for a time, we had northwesterly winds, and that was taking the smoke from the North Bay fires and pushing it right over Sacramento,” said Cory Mueller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “So we saw smoke over Sacramento. Well, now the wind is a little more north to northeast, so that’s keeping the smoke away from here.”
After studying wind patterns, he said, it looked as though the majority of smoke would remain to the west of the Sacramento region at least for Friday and perhaps into the weekend. It’s difficult, however, to predict where smoke will go because fire characteristics, surface winds and the winds aloft are so dynamic, he said.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, most monitors around the Sacramento region reported good air quality, the highest rank possible. The only exceptions were Auburn and Colfax, where the numbers were one step down, in the moderate range.
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If residents smell or see smoke, it’s a good idea to avoid unnecessary exposure, county health officers said. This is particularly important for children, the elderly and people with respiratory issues.
Wildfire smoke contains fine particles that are about 1/30 the width of a human hair, said Mat Ehrhardt, executive director of the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, and they can penetrate deep into the lungs. For the average person, these particles may trigger mild symptoms such as a scratchy throat for a short while, but people who are sensitive to such particles, known as PM2.5, can be debilitated for several days.
If air quality is unhealthy, medical experts say, it’s best to stay indoors with doors and windows closed because the walls of a home or office act as a filter, reducing exposure to fine particulates. If running an air conditioner, check to see whether you can switch it to recirculating air rather than drawing in the outdoor air. Do not rely on HEPA masks to do unnecessary outdoor activities, experts say, and keep airways moist by drinking water.