Smoke advisories likely to recur over summer: Meteorologist

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Matt Gardner
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A special weather advisory issued on Thursday related to forest fire smoke is unlikely to be the last this summer, according to an Environment Canada meteorologist.

Prince Albert Daily Herald

Environment Canada issued the advisory as the result of smoke from forest fires primarily in Alberta and British Columbia that blanketed much of southern Saskatchewan. Advisories were previously put out last week regarding smoke that originated in the Northwest Territories.

Meterologist Terri Lang said that such smoke advisories are likely to recur throughout the summer.

“If the forest fire smoke was coming from Ontario, you’d say, ‘Oh, well, that’s a bit exceptional,’ because we don’t often get the winds coming from the east,” Lang said.

“But when they’re coming from the west or the northwest, that’s the prevailing wind direction in the upper atmosphere in Canada. So if there’s fire burning in the west or northwest, yeah, it’s going to be happening on and off throughout the summer -- especially if the fires keep burning.”

As of Thursday evening, Prince Albert was rated as low-risk on the province’s Air Quality Health Index.

While noting P.A. was on the cusp of the mass wave of smoke, Lang said that a severe thunderstorm warning set for Thursday evening was likely to have broken up much of the smoke by Friday.

“We can see the smoke best on satellite pictures when the sun angles are low, so in the morning and in the evening … but I can see that you guys are certainly on the edge of the thickest smoke,” Lang said.

“But like I said, there is this band of showers and thundershowers that’s going to move through tonight, and that’ll probably scatter out a lot of the smoke and it’ll clear the air as winds that are coming … from a direction where the fires aren’t occurring.”

If there’s fire burning in the west or northwest ... it’s going to be happening on and off throughout the summer. Terri Lang

As a precaution, the Population Health Unit for Northern Saskatchewan issued a public service announcement on Thursday advising northern communities of possible impact from the forest fire smoke

In the event of noticing smoke in the air, the release advised residents -- particularly those with lung or heart troubles, the elderly or the very young -- to take certain precautions.

Among these were suggestions to remain indoors during periods when there is smoke in the air and to keep doors and windows closed. If cooling is required, fans and air conditioners are the best option.

Vulnerable groups should reduce exercise and activity, particularly in the outdoors, and avoid smoking as well as exposure to second-hand smoke.

Those taking lung or heart medicine should always keep a five-day supply on hand, making sure to get a refill of their prescriptions prior to running out of medication.

In the event that one should experience increasing symptoms that go beyond irritation in the eyes, nose or throat, they should call the HealthLine at 811 or see their local health care worker.

Residents with Internet access may keep up-to-date on the air quality in their area by visiting www.environment.gov.sk.ca/airqualityindex.

Organizations: Environment Canada, Prince Albert, Air Quality Population Health Unit for Northern Saskatchewan HealthLine

Geographic location: Alberta, British Columbia, Southern Saskatchewan Northwest Territories Ontario Canada

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