Environment Canada has issued air quality advisories for most of southern British Columbia, including Metro Vancouver, as smoke from raging wildfires in Washington state drifted north Tuesday, turning clear blue skies into a murky, orange-coloured haze.
Air quality in the Central Okanagan in the province’s Interior is off the charts and the health risk is rated as “very high.”
A high-pressure weather system pulled the smog from Washington into B.C. during the windy Labour Day Monday. The pressure is expected to hold on Tuesday, keeping the smoke in place over the southern half of the province.
Residents from Vancouver Island through Metro Vancouver to the Okanagan woke up to the noticeable smell and burnt, ashy taste of smog in the air.
Sunrise in Victoria was an eerie shade of red, mirroring blood-red skies in Seattle. In Kelowna, the sky was the haziest it’s been all summer.
A beach in West Kelowna under clear skies on Sunday, compared to the haze on Tuesday:
The air quality in the central and south Okanagan as well as the West Shore neighbourhood on Vancouver Island was rated 10+ as of 1 p.m. PT, according to Environment Canada, meaning a “very high” risk. The risk in Victoria was rated at nine.
Around 2 p.m. PT, an air quality statement was issued for the Metro Vancouver region with more moderate ratings of six in the southeast and ratings as high as nine in the southwest.
At air quality ratings of eight and above, Environment Canada advises the public to reduce strenuous outdoor activities, while children, the elderly and those with health problems should avoid strenuous outdoor activities altogether.
Hurricane-force winds and scorching heat fuelled wildfires across Washington state over the long weekend, burning hundreds of thousands of acres of land and destroying most of the small farming town of Malden in the east of the state.
As a followup to the smoke, forecasters are expecting unusual heat in B.C. this week.
Special weather statements are in effect for much of southern B.C., from the west coast of Vancouver Island through the Lower Mainland to the Okanagan and the Kootenays.
In the statements, Environment Canada said the same high-pressure system responsible for pulling in the U.S. smoke is also expected to push daytime temperatures 5-10 C above seasonal norms on Wednesday and Thursday.
Temperatures in Vancouver could reach 31 C by the end of the week, according to meteorologists.
WATCH | Smoke from Washington state fires drifts north: