WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Another smoky day on tap

Posted June 12, 2008
Updated June 13, 2008

I'm a big fan of barbecue.  For me, savoring a gently smoked hunk of meat, cooked low and slow, is pretty close to a divine experience.

Then, I realized today that "smoked meat" and "smoked me" are only two letters apart.  I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel like I'm the main course.  (And smelling like it, too!)

At last check, the Evans Road fire in eastern NC has already burned somewhere around 40,000 acres.  It is the largest active wildfire anywhere in the United States.  With the recent shift in the winds, a great deal of the smoke from that fire is blowing in our direction.

The forecast has some bad news and some good news.

First, the bad news: The smoke that's already here won't be heading anywhere tonight.  Light winds will not help to move or dissipate the smoke much at all.  In fact, as night falls, what we call an inversion will set up in the atmosphere.  An inversion is when temperatures increase with height, and they're common overnight.  Inversions tend to trap smoke, haze, and other pollutants in the lower levels of the atmosphere -- and that's exactly what we don't want.

After a smoky night, things will start out hazy on Friday.  Our colleagues at the National Weather Service ran a few simulations, and the latest round of results show additional smoke blowing into the area Friday morning.  This means things will probably get worse Friday morning before they get better.

That's when the good news kicks in: Winds should kick up and shift around to a more southeasterly and southerly direction Friday afternoon.  That will help to clear out the smoke we've already got and move any new smoke across other parts of North Carolina and Virginia.  Of course, this is good news for us here in the Triangle, but bad news for folks northeast of the Triangle, from Roanoke Rapids up into southern and southeastern Virginia.

Our next air mass change -- and chance for widespread rain and cleansing of the air -- is due in here on Father's Day.  Ahead of that front, winds should kick up out of the south and southwest -- hopefully clearing things out in time for the big Race for the Cure on Saturday morning.


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