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Calgary air quality at ‘low risk’ Wednesday; thunderstorm watch in effect

The air quality was rated as low risk in Calgary early on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. Global News

Residents who woke up wondering about a smoky-looking sky Wednesday morning can rest assured: Environment Canada has ranked the air quality health index (AQHI) as low risk. But residents and Stampede-goers should be on the lookout for thunderstorms in the afternoon.

The AQHI was a 2 at 6 a.m. MT, then a 3 at 9 a.m. MT. It was expected to reach a moderate risk of 4 later Wednesday afternoon and night.

“Calgary started the day with almost no wind, so the smoke that moved into southern Alberta overnight ended up trapped here,” Global News weather specialist Jodi Hughes said. “To compound things, we had a ton of rain Tuesday — up to 59 mm in parts of the city. So as that moisture started to evaporate, it clung to the particulate in the air and created a thick layer of fog that kept the smoke close to the ground.”

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The rating means people can continue to enjoy their usual outdoor activities, Environment Canada said.

You can watch the real-time smoke forecasts on FireSmoke.ca here

“The sun will help burn the fog off today,” Hughes said. “The wind will pick up and the jet stream is expected to move a little further north as we get closer to the weekend. All of those factors will help drive the smoke out of the Calgary area.”

Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the city Wednesday morning, explaining an “unstable air mass” was sitting over the foothills.

“Some of these thunderstorms will have the potential to produce hail to the size of golf balls and wind gusts in excess of 90 km/h,” reads the statement.

Click here to see the latest weather alerts from Environment Canada  

Air quality has been top of mind in Alberta since the organization announced smoke from hundreds of wildfires burning in British Columbia was making its way across Western Canada and into the United States.

READ MORE: Smoke from B.C. wildfires blowing into Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and U.S.

On Tuesday,  Environment Canada issued air quality advisories for west of Edmonton all the way to the Alberta-B.C. border, including the communities of Hinton, Rocky Mountain House, Whitecourt, Spruce Grove and Jasper National Park.

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READ MORE: B.C. wildfires map 2017: Current location of wildfires around the province

With files from 630 CHED’s Kirby Bourne