Smoke chokes Hole sky
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
August 16, 2012
The smoke that settled over the valley Tuesday and Wednesday mornings — heavy enough to block Teton views — was blowing in from a multitude of wildfires that were affecting large parts of the Intermountain West.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images show the smoke was coming from large fires in Oregon, Idaho, northern California and northern Nevada. The blazes were producing a “large amount of moderate to very dense smoke” across much of the West, a NOAA statement said.
“The flow over us is coming out of the west and northwest the last several days,” said Jim Woodmencey, a Jackson meteorologist who runs mountainweather.com. “I couldn’t put my finger on any one fire that would be responsible.”
“The only thing that will clean it out is a complete change in the wind direction,” Woodmencey said. A heavy and widespread regional rainstorm could also clean out the atmosphere, the meteorologist said.
Because the concentration of smoke in Jackson is not tracked by the state, health advisory alerts are not issued by the Wyoming Department of Health, spokeswoman Kim Deti said.
The nearest Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality air quality station is in the Wyoming Range, and does not provide real-time data that’s a good indication of the smoke concentrations, Deti said.
“In Wyoming we have a completely different situation — it’s not like a major metro area,” Deti said. “They measure smog in Denver every day and can use the same instruments to track smoke.”
Instead, the Department of Health advocates that people use “a common-sense approach” as they go about their business or exercise under smoky skies, Deti said.
“When you can see it and smell it and feel it in your eyes, that’s when we advise you watch what you’re doing,” Deti said. “Don’t go on a long bike ride through Teton park.”
A Department of Health wildfire smoke fact sheet advises people to be wary of adding to indoor pollution on smoky days.
“When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces or gas stoves,” the fact sheet reads. “Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside ... Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.”
Kids are more to vulnerable to wildfire smoke because they breathe more air per pound of body weight, Deti said. Folks with asthma should also be particularly careful, she said.