Poor air quality prompts Edmonton to activate extreme weather response

Click to play video: 'Effects of smoke on your physical and mental wellbeing'
Effects of smoke on your physical and mental wellbeing
With another hazy day in Edmonton thanks to wildfire smoke, Sarah Ryan is taking a look at its physical and mental impacts on your health – Jul 14, 2023

The City of Edmonton activated its extreme weather response Thursday due to poor air quality conditions.

It’s set to remain in place until Sunday night.

Two thresholds for activating the response are the presence of an Environment Canada Special Air Quality Statement and a score of 7 or higher for two consecutive days on the Air Quality Health Index.

Edmonton is currently under a special air quality statement. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, the Air Quality Health Index was at a Level 3 (low risk), however, over the next 24 hours, it could rise to a Level 7 (high risk).

Click to play video: 'Alberta wildfires: Experts warn about ongoing air quality concerns'
Alberta wildfires: Experts warn about ongoing air quality concerns

“We’ve had an extended period of warm and dry conditions through much of Alberta and western Canada,” said Justin Shelley, a weather preparedness meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada. “That’s been a primer for this significant wildfire year.

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“Going back to April, every month we’ve seen temperatures above average and precipitation below average.”

It’s a trend that’s likely to continue, experts say.

“As we see temperatures rise, changing precipitation patters, we have drier years and warmer years, it’s going to lead to conditions that are more favourable for wildfire starts and growth,” Shelley said.

It also likely means more wildfire smoke.

“We’ve definitely seen a trend in recent years where we’re seeing a lot more smoke hours than we used to,” Shelley said.

“A lot of years when you have larger wildfire complexes, they can burn well into the fall and even the winter months.”

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Alberta wildfires: Timelapse shows air quality deterioration in Calgary

The city’s response is meant to ensure the health and safety of all Edmontonians, particularly those who are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.

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Open City of Edmonton facilities will be available for anyone who needs to escape the smoke, including recreation centres, pools and libraries.

Social agencies will also have N95 masks available to those who need protection from the smoke.

If you see are concerned about someone outside, you can help by calling 211 and press 3 for the 24/7 Crisis Diversion team.

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