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Thank California for Hazy Skies

July 11, 2008

By Bill McKeown, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Jul. 11–California has given us many wonderful things: Sonny and Cher. Body waxing. “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”

Today — and continuing through next week — California is giving us something not quite so delightful: haze.

Smoke from more than 40 lightning-sparked fires in north-central California has been blown our way by typical west-to-east wind flows, said meteorologist Steve Hodanish of the U.S. Weather Service in Pueblo.

He said forecast simulations indicate the haze could linger awhile.

“Those fires are not going out any time soon,” he said. “It looks like we’ll have hazy skies for the next week or so, with some days worse than others.”

The haze appears to be having some effect on the amount of particulates in the region’s air, but it isn’t yet posing a health hazard, said Mike McCarthy, director of El Paso County Health Department’s air and water quality program.

He said as of mid-day today, monitoring showed air quality was “walking the line between good and moderate.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment characterizes air quality as good, in part, when visibility extends 10 miles or more. Moderate air quality allows visibility of five to 10 miles. The department says people sensitive to smoke or who have certain respiratory diseases can be affected when smoke cuts visibility to three to five miles. Air is unhealthy to humans when smoke reduces visibility to 1.5 miles to 3 miles.

Smoke or haze wafting into the Pikes Peak region from wildfires is nothing new. The city has experienced hazy days caused by wildfires each summer since at least 2002.

That year may have been the worst, as the state’s largest wildfire, the Hayman, raged for almost the entire month of June in forests west of the city. The smoke problem was compounded by massive blazes in Arizona and New Mexico.

Contact the writer: 636-0197 or bill.mckeown@gazette.com

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colo.

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