Hazy skies prompts health advisory
August 20, 2015
Steamboat Springs — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Thursday issued a wildfire smoke health advisory for parts of Colorado, including the Yampa Valley.
Wildfires in Colorado were not to blame for the haze, which started becoming apparent Tuesday. National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Stackhouse said winds from the northwest were bringing in smoke from large fires in Oregon and Washington.
The health advisory issued by the CDPHE was issued at 10 a.m. and goes through 9 a.m. Friday.
"If smoke is thick or becomes thick in your neighborhood, you may want to remain indoors," the advisory states. "This is especially true for those with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young, and the elderly. Consider limiting outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present. Consider relocating temporarily if smoke is present indoors and is making you ill."
According to CDPHE, smoke reaches unhealthy levels for humans when visibility is less than 5 miles.
The Steamboat Springs Airport on Thursday afternoon was reporting visibility of 10 miles at ground level.
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Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said his office has received a few phone calls from people who were concerned about the haze.
"The smoke impacts depend on your specific location, altitude and age and health," Zopf said. "The best thing is to look at the visibility."
Zopf said smoke from wildfire can be particularly impactful to vulnerable people because the particulates are smaller and can easily be inhaled deep into the lungs.
Zopf said the haze reminded him of the Mount Zirkel wildfires in 2002.
"Over a period of weeks, we had bad air quality," Zopf said.
Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs snowalarm.com, said the hazy conditions should recede Saturday as a cool front moves through the region.
"The smoke should be cleared from the area by the first front Saturday morning," Weissbluth said. "After the second front passes through the area on Sunday, the persistent western ridge rebuilds, bringing seasonably warm temperatures by Monday and allowing monsoonal moisture from the south to move over the area by later in the day Tuesday. This pattern will bring the chance of storms each day under warm temperatures through the following week, as has been typical for most of our summer."
According to the National Weather Service, the winds are expected to shift from northwest to west, which brings the possibility of smoke from California wildfires.