Boise is now in the purple — and that’s not a good thing when you’re talking about air quality. That means “very unhealthy.”
Local schools are canceling outdoor activities again today.
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It could get worse before it gets better.
Wednesday in Boise was expected to be at least as smoky as Tuesday was. It was projected to be another red-level air quality day, which means everyone is advised to limit time outdoors, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The state Department of Health and Welfare on Wednesday morning urged Idahoans to stay indoors until air quality is better.
“If you have to be outside, remember that surgical masks, bandanas, and dust masks do not reduce the amount of smoke you breathe. For a respirator to provide protection against small particles in smoke, it must be certified by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and fit with a tight seal around the mouth and nose,” said Colby Adams, environmental health director for DHW.
Visibility dropped to 2.5 miles at the Boise Airport on Tuesday, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service said. Other parts of the state were socked in even more.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the air in Garden Valley was in the hazardous range — maroon level, the worst air quality on the DEQ color chart. It ranked second on the list of “Highest 5” around the United States for combined particulate matter and ozone, according to the AirNow Web site. There were two other Idaho sites in the top five: Juliaetta in Latah County and Porthill in Boundary County.
A statewide air quality advisory was issued by IDEQ on Tuesday. All outdoor burning is prohibited in the state through 10 a.m. Thursday.
Thursday appears to be our best chance for some relief from the smoke, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Wojcik.
“We have a low pressure system along the West Coast that’s working toward us,” Wojcik said. “We’ll get a little southerly flow. That should help push that smoke to the north and, hopefully, out of the area.”
By Thursday afternoon, we should see some improvement in the air quality.
“Hopefully, that will continue through the weekend,” he said.
The bad news: Once that system moves through, the smoke might be back. The smoke is coming not only from local fires and those in the Cascades, but also fires in British Columbia and Montana.
“We should see some improvement in a couple days but it could come back in early next week,” Wojcik said.
So many people were looking at IDEQ’s real-time air quality monitors online Tuesday that the site locked up, Toole said. He advises people to check out the AirNow site for the same type of information.