Unusual inversion brings thick smoke into the valley

Smoky skies warning issued

UPDATE: 11:30 a.m.

Environment Canada has issued a smoky skies bulletin for a large portion of Southeast B.C., due to the large fires burning south of the border. 

Interior residents woke Tuesday morning to find thick smoke blocking out the sun, coming from Washington and Oregon. 

'Long-range transport of wildfire smoke from the United States has impacted air quality levels throughout much of southern BC including the Island, coastal mainland, the Okanagan, as well as the Kootenays and boundary," Environment Canada said in its bulletin.

"Localized impacts in the East and West Kootenays are expected from the Doctor Creek and Talbott Creek wildfires."

The bulletin states the smoke could stick around for the next 24 to 48 hours, but meteorologist Doug Lundquist told Castanet it's difficult to predict just how long the smoke will linger. 

"People with pre-existing health conditions, respiratory infections such as COVID19, older adults, pregnant women and infants, children, and sensitive individuals are more likely to experience health effects from smoke exposure," the bulletin warns. 

"Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you feel unwell."

ORIGINAL: 10:30 a.m.

The weather pattern that hit the Okanagan Valley Tuesday morning is very, very unusual for this time of year.

That, according to Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist, who says a strong inversion actually shifted winds 180 degrees, bringing thick smoke from fires burning in Washington and Oregon states into the Okanagan.

Smoke from those fires is visible from the Okanagan and as far south as Mexico.

Lundquist says conditions began to take shape Monday when the valley was hit with a cooler wind, which brought cooler, drier air from the north. That, in turn fanned fires across the Pacific Northwest.

"The smoke is so thick that it causes the inversion to strengthen," said Lundquist.

"The inversion gets really, really strong trapping the cold air below it, and the smoke prevents the sun from heating the ground. Then it reversed the flow, and moved back up the valley from the south.

"The smoke and inversion was so strong that the wind moved to a south wind."

Lundquist says competing weather patterns over the next several days will make it difficult to predict exactly what to expect for the balance of the week.

While a special weather statement warns of unusually high temperatures in the low 30s tomorrow and Thursday, Lundquist says that may not happen.

"If the smoke wins, we don't get the heat because we get the cold air trapped and the smoke will filter the sun, and the sun won't heat up the low levels, and we won't get to the 30s.

But, he says he does believe it could get worse as the week moves on, bringing even more smoke up from the south.

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