How bad has the smoky air been? We compared two recent days
The Sacramento region is about to get a break from smoky skies, the National Weather Service says — but enjoy it while it lasts, because it will be brief.
And forecasters threw in an additional word of caution: If you venture outside to enjoy the fresher air, don’t do anything that could spark more fires.
The welcome change is courtesy of a weak weather system breaking down a high-pressure ridge that’s been sitting over the area for five days. The ridge has essentially created a “lid,” trapping smoke from nearby fires — including the largest wildfire in California history, the Mendocino Complex, to the northwest. That fire continues to burn, at 51 percent containment on Thursday.
However, winds will increase Thursday night, said National Weather Service forecaster Michelle Meade. That will push the ridge east and start clearing out some of the smoke.
The real change will come Friday and Saturday, Meade said, with sunny skies expected and a high of 99 on Friday and 96 on Saturday. But don’t expect any moisture — it’s a “dry cold front,” she said.
If you get out to enjoy the air, Meade said, “try to avoid anything that would make any sparks. No barbecues, no fireworks. Because everything is so dry now that any little spark, and the wind would very quickly result in rapid fire spread.”
Also, Meade said, this is a good time to check in on friends and family with respiratory issues and make sure they’re staying inside and using air conditioning.
Also, especially after the long stretch of dirty air, “your air filters for your furnace should be cleaned and checked a little more regularly,” she said.
The weather system spells trouble for efforts to battle the Mendocino blaze and the Carr Fire in the Redding area, Meade said. When the winds pick up, “yes, it will clear out some of the Valley, but it will also allow the Carr and Mendocino Complex fires to increase in activity,” she said.
Meade noted the system is accompanied by a red flag warning, which indicates dry conditions that could quickly or dramatically increase wildfire activity.
That’s the “good and the bad” of the past few days of calm, if smoky, weather conditions, she said. “It’s allowed the firefighters to get in there because the activity has been quiet,” she said. “It’s still burning, but they’re not having a lot of growth.”
But if weekend winds fuel the fires, “we’re going to be right back where we were,” she said.
The winds should die down Saturday afternoon and evening, Meade said — with the smoke likely rolling back into the region on Sunday.
“Plan for the worst,” she said. “Smoke is going to be in our future for a while.”