Weekend forecast could offer brief reprieve from smoke in Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Weekend forecast could offer brief reprieve from smoke in Kamloops

Lower Sahali looking east in Kamloops taken Aug. 3, 2017.
August 10, 2017 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - Calm wind conditions are being welcomed by B.C. firefighters, but it also means smoke is hanging around Kamloops.

For the past three weeks, Kamloops residents have been suffering from a thick woodsmoke hanging over the city and surrounding areas. At one point last week the air quality health index rating was measured at 49. Today, it’s measured at a 13, again, worst in the province.

Why is the air so bad specifically in Kamloops? Provincial air quality meteorologist Ralph Adams says there are a number of factors that contribute.

“It’s not just the proximity to the fires, it also depends on the structure of the valleys and wind direction,” Adams says. “The valleys have filled up with smoke and they are not venting out.”

A persistent high-pressure ridge is restricting circulation throughout valleys in the province, Adams says, which allows smoke to sit static. He says there’s no way to know how an anticipated cold front this weekend will impact the smoke and ongoing wildfires.

Adams also points out that the smoke forecast models are having difficulty keeping track of what’s going on. Environment Canada can also only forecast smoke for up to two days at a time.

There is some precipitation expected with the cold front. It won’t be enough to put out any of the fires, Adams says but cooler temperatures and higher humidity levels could make an impact on fire activity.

“What will probably happen if this cold front comes through and doesn’t cause the fire to jump and grow, we’ll probably see some relief from the smoke,” Adams says.

But it will likely be short-lived. Due to Kamloops’ landscape and less wind than normal this time of year, it’s possible there may be a short period of clear skies before the smoke returns. It could be a pattern between clear and smoky skies until the wildfires in the province are out, Adams says.

B.C. Wildfire information officer for Kamloops Fire Centre, Max Birkner, says firefighters are optimistic about possible rain this weekend.

“In the Kamloops fire centre this weekend, we are expecting warm temperatures to continue but we may be also receiving precipitation,” Birkner says.

With that though comes a risk of thunderstorms in the north and east parts of the fire centre, which has the potential for lightning, Birkner says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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