Bay Area residents will soon breathe a healthy sigh of relief. Rain is forecast to start washing away the region's toxic air as early as tonight. The National Weather Service predicts rain and southerly gusts for the Bay area through Friday evening.
Air quality experts are not predicting a toxic deluge, as some have suggested on social media.
“Although Paradise experienced a large wildfire, that’s not enough smoke to cause acid rain,” says Dar Mims, meteorologist for the California Air Resources Board. “As the winds and rain start to arrive you’re going to wash out the pollution. We will end up with a clean environment after this storm.”
Mims also says the Bay Area's current haze is much less toxic than in previous days because the most hazardous material from homes and commercial landscapes burnt in the initial days of the Camp fire. The remaining smoke likely emanates from vegetative matter such as smoldering tree trunks, which Mims says is not as bad for human health. He does acknowledge, however, that it’s difficult to assess exactly what kind of particles are carried in wildfire smoke.
"We are all in unchartered territory," says Mims. "We have never had a smoke event like this. Usually, the rain would have arrived by this time of year."