Health & Medicine

‘Stay indoors:’ California health officials warn of dusty winds amid power shutoff

As engineered power shutoffs persisted Wednesday amid increasingly gusty winds across California, air quality officials warned of worsening air quality conditions from the dust and debris being kicked up.

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued an air quality alert until 3 a.m. Thursday for exposure to particle pollution across the central parts of the state, including in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced and Fresno counties.

“Stay indoors if possible,” officials said in a health cautionary statement that was carried by the National Weather Service. “Avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical activities to reduce the effects of unhealthy air.”

The warning was issued during a historic public safety shutoff event, in which Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has cut electricity to more than 500,000 homes and business. As critical red flag warnings continue through Thursday, even more of the utility’s customers could lose power in the Bay Area and in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

PG&E officials feared power lines triggering wildfires amid some of the strongest winds California has seen in recent years — the National Weather Service is forecasting wind speeds between 20 and 30 mph, and gusts as high as 50 mph, across the Sierra foothills and wine country.

“This is forecast to be the strongest wind event of the season so far,” the NWS in Sacramento tweeted Tuesday.

In a news release, the air pollution control district, which covers most of the San Joaquin Valley, said “gusty winds” could carry smoke and dust from the Briceburg Fire near Yosemite National Park in Mariposa County.

“Smoke impacts are expected to continue until the fire is extinguished, while blowing dust should subside by Thursday,” the release states.

Officials warned the pollutants can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate existing respiratory issues.

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