Wildfire smoke, warm temps make for weird weekend weather

Posted November 18, 2016

— In the Triangle and areas to the south and west, smoke and haze from wildfires clouded the air and prompted an air-quality alert.

More than 60 counties, including Wake, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Chatham were under a Code Orange warning through midnight.

The National Weather Service said smoke could make breathing difficult for those with asthma or other conditions.

It will be unseasonably warm again Saturday morning when the WRAL Raleigh Christmas Parade presented by Shop Local Raleigh steps off at 10 a.m., but an afternoon band of rain will usher in a chilling wind, said WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel.

Christmas Parade forecast, 2016

As the smoke from the Wildfires in the North Carolina Mountains head east, parade participants and watchers could be affected by the feel and smell of that smoke.

“Right now the parade is scheduled to continue as planned," said Jennifer Martin of Shop Local Raleigh. "The meteorologists are keeping an eye on things. We really do feel good about having the parade outside tomorrow morning.,”

Martin said organizers at Shop Local Raleigh have been monitoring the conditions carefully.

“I walked the entire parade route, front and back, to test the conditions, and I felt really good. I didn’t have any problems with breathing,” Martin said.

Fishel said there's still a noticeable difference in the air quality to start the weekend. Smoke is still visible in Raleigh and the surrounding areas.

"We have some of the lowest visibility of anybody in the state right now," he said. "The wind is coming from the exact direction you need, to transport that smoke from the fires, right towards us."

A small storm front will push into the mountains on Saturday morning, bringing about a quarter of an inch of precipitation to help battle a rash of wildfires burning in the western part of the state.

Temperatures behind the front will drop significantly Saturday afternoon and into Sunday.

"By 4 or 5 (p.m.) you're going to start to notice that chill, and it's going to be very cold for us on Sunday and especially on Monday morning," Fishel said. "Then temperatures will start to rebound a little bit."

Sunday temperatures won't break 50 degrees, Fishel said, topping out at 49. Normal temperatures for this time of year are 62 degrees.

Dr. Allan Mask from WRAL Health Team said the smoke could affect the very young and the very old, especially those with asthma and other respiratory issues.

Those people should be especially careful and avoid being outside if possible. Particles and pollutants in the smoke can cause eye irritation, wheezing and a running nose, Mask said.

It's best to avoid heavy exercise outdoors, and people with respiratory conditions should use a humidifier and have asthma and other necessary medications available.

“We’re talking about individuals with hyper sensitive airways, asthma, COPD, emphysema, patients with chronic bronchitis, pheumonia, underlying heart disease, internal congestive heart failure,” Mask said.

People especially vulnerable to the poor air quality should consider watching the Raleigh Christmas Parade live instead of putting themselves at risk outdoors.


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