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Smoke keeps Coachella Valley skies dark and hazy

South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) keeps a smoke advisory in effect through Tuesday evening. The advisory states, The smoke will likely be heaviest in the Western Coachella Valley and the higher elevation areas in Eastern Riverside County such as Joshua Tree National Park.

The air quality index levels are expected to stay in the moderate category, even though skies seem more daunting. Jo Kay Ghosh with South Coast Air Quality Management Distrcit said, "We might see smoke that lofts up very high that doesn’t come down to what we call the ground level or breathing level." Ghosh added, "But there is always the potential for some of that smoke to reach the ground level at some point."

Health officials with Riverside County are urging residents to take precautions because of the smoke. Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the Riverside County public health officer said, "Residents in the San Gorgonio Pass and western Riverside County need to be aware of the risks of breathing unhealthy air and take steps to keep safe."

Anil Perumbeti, MD with Eisenhower Health said, "You know everyone is going to have some symptomatology over the next few days from the smoke." Perumbeti said that smoke can have an effect on those who aslo don't normally have respiratory problems. He said, "It can bring out symptoms that are like asthma and cause wheezing and tightness inside of the chest." He also mentioned that the cloth masks you wear when you go outside to protect you from coronavirus don't help with smoke. "Unfortunately the smoke particles are too small and can go right through cloth masks and standard surgical masks," said Perumbeti.

In a statement, Kaiser recommended that residents living near areas impacted by smoke and ash should avoid strenuous activity, remain indoors with the air-conditioning on and windows and doors closed. He also recommended residents keep the indoor air fresh with a clean filtering system to prevent from bringing smoke inside.

Wildfire smoke can cause a range of health issues including burning eyes, runny nose, shortness of breath, scratchy throat, headaches and chest pains. Smoke can also worsen chronic heart and lung disease.

Perumbeti also urged, that sometimes it might be difficult to tell what symptoms can be COVID-19 related versus what's wildfire related. He said, "If it's persisting for more than 24-48 hours, if you really notice that you're having difficulty breathing with simple activities, it's still a good idea to get checked out for coronavirus, or at least call one of the coronavirus hotlines."

Gusty Santa Ana winds are expected Tuesday which can push out some of the overhead smoke but these gusty winds can also increase wildfire activity. A Wind Blown Dust Advisory does remain in effect through Wednesday morning. Ghosh said, "Obviously weather conditions and fire conditions are changing rapidly and this is something we are continuing to keep an eye on."

News Channel 3's Taban Sharifi will have more details on air quality and how increasing winds today will affect it. Tune in tonight at 6 p.m. on KESQ News Channel 3.

Do you have any pictures of the what the Coachella Valley skies look like in smoke? Send them to share@kesq.com.

For more information on the El Dorado fire, including evacuation orders: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7148/

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Taban Sharifi

Taban Sharifi is a Meteorologist and Reporter with KESQ News Channel 3, The Desert’s News & Weather Leader. Learn more about Taban here.

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