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Friday’s air quality forecast for Alberta amid wildfires

WATCH ABOVE: Here's Jesse Beyer's Friday, May 31, 2019 Global News at Noon afternoon weather forecast for Edmonton, Alberta and the surrounding area.

Special air quality statements remained in place for much of the province on Friday, as smoke from the northern Alberta wildfires made its way south.

The haze caused poor air quality and reduced visibility over much of Alberta on Friday morning. Conditions are forecast to remain smoky through the weekend, according to Environment Canada.

READ MORE: Wildfire smoke can harm your lungs, your heart, and maybe even your mental health: research

The weather agency said for central and southern Alberta, the thickest smoke is expected to more northwestwards on Friday.

Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index is measured on a scale, ranging from 1 to 10+. Anything from 1-3 is considered a low risk, 4-6 is a moderate risk, 7-10 is a high risk and 10+ is very high risk.

Edmonton air quality forecast and school board policies

Edmonton was at a 2 on Alberta’s AQHI on Friday morning and reached 7 by the afternoon.

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Saturday’s air quality forecast for Edmonton was 7, as of Friday afternoon.

READ MORE: Edmonton declares fire ban amid hot, dry weather conditions

Edmonton Catholic Schools’ policy is to keep students indoors at lunch and recess when the air quality health index reaches 7 or higher.

Edmonton Public Schools also keeps students indoors with the windows closed when Environment Canada issues an air quality rating at 7 or higher. Air conditions and HVAC air systems remain on, according to the school board’s policy.

“Principals will use this guideline to make the best decisions for the health and safety of their students,” EPS spokeswoman Megan Normandeau said in a statement.

Watch below: The wildfire situation in northern Alberta appears to be intensifying. New images from the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement show the toll fire has already taken on their community. (Filed May 30, 2019).

New photos shed light of toll wildfires are taking on northern Alberta
New photos shed light of toll wildfires are taking on northern Alberta

Calgary air quality forecast and school board policies

Air quality conditions in Calgary and other parts of southern Alberta were much worse on Friday. Calgary’s AQHI level was a 10+ on Friday morning. That risk was forecast to remain very high into Friday night.

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Saturday’s air quality forecast for Calgary was 6, as of Friday afternoon.

The Calgary Catholic School District said Friday that all outdoor activities were cancelled for the day due to heavy smoke and poor air quality.

The school district said efforts were made Friday to improve air quality inside their schools, which included reducing the amount of outdoor air coming into buildings and portables.

Students will be monitored for symptoms of poor air quality, the school board said.

READ MORE: Smoke from the Alberta wildfires drifts across Canada — here’s what it looks like from space

The Calgary Board of Education said principals make decisions based on local conditions, but the board’s guidelines are to consider indoor recess and lunch for students when the AQHI reaches 10+.

When it comes to other outdoor activities, Calgary Minor Soccer advises games and practices should be delayed or rescheduled if the AQHI reaches 7 or higher.

Northern Alberta air quality

The air quality was a bit better in parts of northern Alberta on Friday morning, but jumped to a 7 for Fort McKay. Fort McMurray was at 3 on Friday afternoon, while Cold Lake was at 2.

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Grande Prairie’s air quality was at 10+ on Friday afternoon, and Fort Chipewyan’s was at 2.

READ MORE: Alberta wildfires: Evacuation alerts and orders in place across the province

Southern Alberta air quality

Lethbridge and Medicine Hat both sat on the high risk end of the scale on Friday morning but things got a bit better by the afternoon, with their AQHI at 6 and 4 respectively.

Central Alberta air quality

The air quality through central Alberta remained on the moderate to high side Friday afternoon. Spruce Grove and Drayton Valley’s AQHI were at an 8 and Red Deer was at 10+.

During special air quality statements, people may find themselves coughing more or experience throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath.

READ MORE: What to look for in a mask for wildfire smoke

Children, seniors and people with cardiovascular or lung disease such as asthma and COPD are especially at risk.

People experiencing difficulty breathing should stay inside where it’s cool and ventilated. Using an air conditioner may help. For more information, visit the Alberta Health Services website.