UPDATE: 11:45 a.m.
The Ministry of Environment has issued a special air quality statement for the Central, North and South Okanagan regions.
Smoke from wildfires in the United States has impacted air quality levels throughout most of the south B.C., they explained in a release Tuesday (Sept. 8) including Vancouver Island, coastal mainland, the Okanagan, as well as the Kootenays and boundary region.
The Ministry cautioned that those with pre-existing health conditions, respiratory infections such as COVID-19, older adults, pregnant women and infants, children, and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure.
Those exposed to wildfire smoke are encouraged to take extra precautions to reduce their exposure.
Visibility and air quality is low in the Okanagan region after wildfire smoke from the United States travelled north and settled in valley bottoms.
Winds overnight (Sept. 7) blew smoke north from fires particularly in Washington. Smoke from Washington, Oregon and California is now trapped below the inversion.
“It’s all filtering down into the valley bottoms like into a bowl,” said Environment Canada meteorologist, Doug Lundquist.
BC Wildfire stressed the smoke is not caused by local fires.
“It’s not attributed to any fires currently in the Kamloops Fire Centre,” said fire information officer, Gagan Lidhran.
The #BCWildfire Service has been receiving reports of a wildfire producing a large column of smoke that is visible from #Midway, #GrandForks, and for travellers along #BCHwy3. The fire is located in the United States, approximately 12 kilometres southeast of #Midway.
— BC Wildfire Service (@BCGovFireInfo) September 8, 2020
Currently the wind from a few thousand metres up, Lundquist explained, is clean. However, a weakening northerly wind throughout this week could cause the smoke to continue to drift in from the south.
He expects the clean air aloft, and the smoke hovering over the ground, will be ‘flirting’ with each other for the next few days.
“I think unfortunately it’s going to be a fairly bad week for us, because the ridge of high pressure is rebuilding and as the week goes by, that northerly wind aloft is going to weaken and we’ll just have that smoke continuing to want to push up from Washington and Oregon and California.”
“There’s fires everywhere, from B.C. to Mexico.”
A special weather statement was issued this morning for the Central, North and South Okanagan regions, predicting weather five to 10 degrees above the seasonal normal.
Today weather in Penticton was originally anticipated to be 26 degrees, however, Lundquist said this may have been over-forecasted.
Smoke has, and will continue to cause temperatures to drop.
“I’ll be surprised if we see a 30 (degree temperature) unless we can clear it out,” he said.
“If we could warm up enough over high terrain and mix down that clean air, it’s close, we are so on the edge of it, but I think we’re too close to really say that we’re not going to have problems with it throughout the week.”
Although an air quality advisory has not yet been issued by the Ministry of Environment, Lunquist anticipates one will be issued soon.
“It is a good time to be careful about being outside. We want to be outside so much because of COVID, and now the smoke is actually going to impact our own health, which is not great especially right now, come to think of it. We don’t really need the smoke just as we’re going into another perhaps bigger wave.
“All these things are stuff we need to keep in the back of our minds.”