San Francisco’s air quality dramatically worsened Thursday morning as a massive blanket of wildfire smoke that blocked out sunlight and turned the skies orange a day earlier began descending to the surface.
The smoke had gathered high in the Bay Area sky on Wednesday, casting an apocalyptic orange filter over The City from sunrise to sunset, when dry and windy conditions prompted numerous wildfires across the West Coast to flare up at explosive rates.
But gravity took over Thursday morning as wind conditions weakened, and the smoke began falling.
“We are seeing air quality a lot worse today,” said Drew Peterson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Bay Area. “The thinking was once the winds aloft started weakening that gravity was going to take over and cause that smoke particulate to gradually descend, and we are seeing that with the air quality deteriorating.”
With less smoke up high, the skies appeared to fade from an orange hue to a more pinkish, brownish color, Peterson said.
9/10 9 AM UPDATE: Air Quality is currently RED – Unhealthy. Avoid outdoor exertion, especially children and people with heart or lung diseases. If you do go outside, make sure to wear a mask & keep physical distance. https://t.co/KEPzIeJQ7r pic.twitter.com/vYtyJsPW99
— San Francisco Department of Emergency Management😷 (@SF_emergency) September 10, 2020
“As predicted, orange skies are gone but air quality is worse than yesterday,” Mary Ellen Carroll, director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management, tweeted. “This air is unhealthy and everyone should avoid outdoor exertion but especially children and people with heart or lung issues.”
But there is still a lot of smoke in the air. Peterson said the air quality could grow worse if the smoke continues to descend.
While weather conditions over the weekend could provide some relief, Friday is expected to be similar to Thursday.
“At this point the fires are generating their own weather,” Peterson said. “The best forecast we have probably today and even Friday is what you see is what you get.”
Residents can check updated air quality information for their area online at fire.airnow.gov.