Bay Area Air Quality Improves as Northern California's 'Smokestorm' Finally Eases

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Millions of Bay Area residents have been living under hazy skies, breathing dense, smoky and frequently hazardous air. Now, the “smokestorm,” as some weather experts have dubbed the choking fog of particulate matter blanketing the region this past week, could be coming to an end.

Or at least a much needed intermission.

The air in the Bay Area is starting to gradually improve after ranging from “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “hazardous” across the region. Despite the clearer conditions, a Bay Area Air Quality Management District Spare the Air Alert will run through Wednesday, marking a record 30 consecutive days of poor to terrible air quality. The conditions have made outdoor activity potentially dangerous.

On Tuesday, for the first time in almost a week, air district monitors displayed readings in the moderate, or yellow, range, and satellite images showed visibly lower smoke concentrations for large portions of the Bay Area.

“The winds have cleared out some of the lingering smoke,” said Ralph Borrmann, a spokesman for the air district. “Air quality is showing some improvements faster than we anticipated, but there's still smoke off the ocean, and that's lingering there.”


“We anticipate continuing unhealthy conditions in parts of the Bay Area today,” he said. “Although Sonoma and Marin counties, they are going to enjoy some of the cleanest air quality.”

The National Weather Service forecasts a “gradual decrease” in smoke throughout the day as winds pick up from a low pressure system churning in the eastern Pacific.

Cindy Palmer, a
meteorologist with the service, says winds from the early-season storm could push wildfire smoke out of the region by Thursday night.

“There is still smoke out over the Pacific,” she said. “But we are coming — I don't want to say quite to the back edge of it yet, because I can still see smoke out there — but it is definitely less in concentration from at least the appearance from satellite.”

The reprieve may be short-lived, however, as the winds could kick up the August Complex and North Complex fires burning in Northern California, and a high pressure system could bring more smoke over the weekend, Palmer said.