Albertans are urged to stay indoors and take care of their health as smoke levels are expected to surge across the province.
Environment Canada issued air quality statements for both Calgary and Edmonton on Sunday due to elevated levels of wildfire smoke. The Air Quality Health Index forecasted air quality at 10+ for both cities on Sunday, the worst rating for air quality according to Environment Canada.
This means the air quality may pose very serious health risks for residents, especially for the elderly, children and people with respiratory illnesses.
The smoke is also expected to linger in Edmonton.
“It looks like it’s actually going to stick around until around tomorrow afternoon where we might get a brief reprieve in the smoke,” said Marianna Greenhough, meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada.
“We can probably see a few thunderstorms possibly pass through tomorrow night …After those thunderstorms go through, it does look like the smoke will come back in again and maybe not quite as terrible as it is today, but it will not be good. You can expect high air like poor air quality, so high on the scale.”
In Calgary, an AHS spokesperson told Global News emergency departments across the city saw a “modest” increase in patients with cough and respiratory issues due to wildfire smoke.
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Calgary’s emergency departments saw 105 patients on May 6, the day the provincial state of emergency was declared.
Since then, that number has fluctuated from a low of 103 patients on May 10th to a high of 155 on May 15th.
“We encourage all Albertans to take the necessary precautions to stay safe, plan ahead and remain healthy during the wildfire season,” said James Wood, AHS’ director of issues management and media relations.
The Calgary Region Airshed Zone (CRAZ) tweeted on Saturday evening it recorded ground-level ozone exceeding PM 2.5., meaning the air is unhealthy and can cause issues for people with respiratory issues like asthma.
“Ozone is a secondary pollutant that is formed via a chemical reaction between the oxides of nitrogen & volatile organic compounds, in the presence of sun,” CRAZ’s tweet read.
At around 5:16 p.m. on Sunday, Environment Canada, Alberta Environment and Parks, Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services issued an alert warning residents of poor air quality and reduced visibility at times.
“Air quality and visibility due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour,” the alert read.“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health even at low concentrations. Continue to take actions to protect your health and reduce exposure to smoke.”
Greenhough said Albertans should try to stay indoors with air purification systems in place, if possible.
“So in your own home, filtering that air through your furnace would be preferred, or using the air conditioner if you have it. That would be the best thing you can do,” the meteorologist said.
“And if you don’t have that ability, going into a public building such as a library or a shopping mall may be the best option for you.”