WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- “Apocalyptic” photos and videos of the hazy sky have been shared online as record-breaking wildfires in the western U.S. have turned the regions a shocking shades of bright red and orange.
- Parts of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and Utah are currently under critical and elevated risk of fire weather, according to the National Weather Service.
- Air quality in some regions has reached hazardous levels, and tens of thousands of firefighters are battling day and night to contain the thousands of fires, which are exacerbated due to climate change.
On Wednesday, parts of the West Coast skies turned orange due to the effect of rapidly spreading wildfires that have ravaged homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate in California, Oregon and Washington.
There was no sunrise visible in the Bay Area as a mix of fog and smoke from weeks of fires enveloped towns and cities in a haze that looked like a perpetual predawn light.
“It is still dark as though it’s 6 a.m., but it’s already 8, which is weird in itself,” said Kim Hart, 48, who lives in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood.
Cars kept their headlights on as drivers crept through sepia-toned streets, and the city sent a text alert warning of “widespread haze” and “darker skies” throughout the area. On social media, people drew comparisons to end-of-days movies, and regional webcams that typically would show views from area peaks instead displayed glowing orange skies.
“It feels creepy. The air has a strange smell, although not a smell of wildfire as you would expect,” Hart said.
At about 11 a.m., the sky around San Francisco appeared to have gotten darker, and the sun still was not visible behind the smoke.
Large areas of California have burned for weeks as fires consumed 2.3 million acres, or 20 times what burned all of last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.
In Washington state, wildfires virtually wiped out an entire small town Tuesday. In Oregon, thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes Wednesday after fires broke out across the state, The Oregonian reported.
Much of the West Coast is choking on a thick veil of smoke as historic wildfires rage across the region.
The National Weather Service warned that the situation could worsen throughout the day Wednesday as additional smoke particles fall from higher in the atmosphere.
“Suspended smoke will descend closer to the surface and could lead to darker skies and worsening air quality today. This is beyond the scope of our models so we rely on your reports!” the service’s Bay Area division tweeted.
Area air monitors reported moderate-quality air, but the weather service warned that those readings may be incomplete because they measure smaller particulates in the air. Some ash falling is too large for them to register, it said.
Long-time residents wondered whether the haze might become a regular part of living on the West Coast, as climate change adds to the potential ferocity of the annual wildfire season.
“I have never seen the sky in SF look like this in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived here,” Veronica Belmont of San Francisco wrote on Twitter. “Looks like a scene from Mars.”
Source: CBS News