Wildfire smoke that plagued the skies over Vancouver Island and beyond this weekend is expected to continue today.
The smoky skies warning issued by Environment Canada early Friday afternoon was renewed at 4:30 a.m. this morning and the forecast for Victoria to Campbell River calls for more widespread smoke throughout the day and at least into tomorrow, but also rain.
The B.C. Air Quality Index map continues to show Victoria, Duncan and Nanaimo in the 10+ (very high) range, with the lone exception being the Comox Valley at 9 (high) As of 6 a.m., Island substations are measuring fine particulate matter ranging from 90 in the Comox Valley to 129 in Victoria, down somewhat from 24-hour averages from over the weekend.
Environment Canada continues to advise people with underlying medical conditions or serious infections such as COVID-19 to postpone or reduce activities outside.
The Nanaimo School District issued an email update to parents about the situation Sunday evening.
Superintendent Scott Saywell said the district has been consulting with public health officials about policies such as keeping exterior windows and doors closed, allowing students who are sensitive to the smoke remain indoors during lunch/breaks, and reducing strenuous activities outdoors.
“While staying indoors may run counter to the recommendations for COVID-19, other COVID-19 health and safety control measures in place in schools will continue to provide protection for staff and students,” Saywell said. “Also, our HVAC systems have filtration that allows us to maintain fresh air while also removing particulates.
Rain is expected to come into the area this afternoon to offer some relief from the smoke, especially tonight and into Tuesday morning.
The smoke initially was blown offshore last week by easterly winds, creating a huge plume over the Pacific Ocean created by the smoke from 4.5 million acres burning in California, Oregon and Washington. Now the smoke is blowing inland, carried by westerly winds.
“The good news is the amount of smoke [offshore] is thinning out,” said U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Michalski told the Port Angeles-based Peninsula Daily News. “The bad news is, there’s still smoke traps near the surface.”
He warned that people may not see the smoke leave immediately after the rain system arrives.
“The rain should help,” Michalski said. “I wouldn’t expect it to be instantaneous.”
He added that continued winds blowing north could continue to bring smoke into the area, depending on how out of control the fires remain.
But he was optimistic air quality will improve during the week.
“We’re getting a pretty good mixing,” he said. “We’re expecting things to improve.”
—with a file from Pierre LaBossiere, Peninsula Daily News