Choked by smoke

UPDATED: 10:46 a.m.

The good news is that visibility could improve throughout the Okanagan later today. The bad news is the air quality probably won't get all that much better. 

The air quality in the Okanagan is poor due to smoke from wildfires burning throughout the province as well as Washington State. 

The air quality in the Okanagan is currently rated amongst the worst in the province, at "very high" along with Williams Lake, Kamloops and Castlegar — all of which have significant fires burning nearby.

Cindy Yu, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, says that predicting when air quality will improve is tricky.

"When it comes to wildfire smoke the tricky part is really the source. When you are so close to the source, so many things can happen during the day to contribute to the production of the smoke."

The reason it feels so bad in the morning is due to the atmospheric pressure.   

"Typically, the atmosphere tends to become more stagnant at night," explains Yu. "The air mass tends to sink closer to the ground overnight because of the cooler temperatures. Because of that, typically, with or without the smoke, we tend to see high readings of air quality and health index overnight."  

Yesterday, in a few pockets throughout the Central and North Okanagan, as much as 15 mm of rain fell. The limited scattered showers were not enough to push the smoke away. 

"There was a lot of activity yesterday, but perhaps the rainfall wasn't quite enough to put out the smoke, but there are a lot of fires so it will take a few days of soaking rain to kind of have a significant improvement."

Showers are in the forecast for Sunday afternoon, but so too is thunder. 

"We have thunderstorms in the forecast but the severity won't be as much as yesterday," says Yu. "We will see thunderstorms later today but we are not expecting the same amount of lightning as well as wind."

The Air Quality Health Index for the North Okanagan is forecast to remain high for the rest of the day. The air quality in the Central and South Okanagan is forecast to drop to moderate.  

ORIGINAL 8:40 a.m.

Despite the weather, an air quality statement remains in effect for the Okanagan. 

Smoke from wildfires across the province as well as Washington State continues to hang in the air, to the point it can almost be tasted.

Both the Central and North Okanagan are listed as a 10+ on B.C.'s Air Quality Health Index (the south is listed at 10) With a "Very High" rating, it is suggested that people should avoid strenuous activities outdoors, and children and the elderly should also avoid outdoor physical exertion.

Air conditions are expected to improve for the South and Central Okanagan, but the forecast is not so good for the North Okanagan — air quality is expected to remain poor for most of the day.  

The weather forecast for Sunday in the North and Central is calling for showers most of the day, with a chance of a thunderstorm later in the afternoon into the evening. 

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