‘A wet bonfire’: Rain doesn’t help clear Utah’s smoky air

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Despite recent rainstorms, air quality along the Wasatch Front remained in the unhealthy range Thursday, leaving many wondering why all that rain didn’t do anything to clear out the wildfire smoke from California and Oregon.

For the past three days, the smoke met the soak.

“It’s kind of like you’re entering a bonfire when you go outside,” Salt Lake City resident Jess Tanck told ABC4 News. “A wet bonfire.”

Others have described the smell as a “doused campfire” or a “soggy ashtray”. The Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, Bryce Bird says this is different from an inversion.

“When the air pollution is locally sourced as it is during our winter inversions, of course, the storm takes the lid off the valley, it allows the ventilation to occur and clearing of the air but in this case, the smoke is from those distant wildfires and we’re at the mercy of the weather patterns as that smoke is directed into our area,” Bird said. “With our cold front that came past earlier, the past few days, it actually drew the smoke in behind it, and even though we had rain and other weather that should have cleared it out and typically does, it actually opened the door for the smoke to come in behind that cold front.

While we’ve been seeing the smoke in the upper atmosphere for two weeks, the storms actually made the situation worse, pushing the particulates down to the surface where we breathe.

“With the low-pressure system, it actually concentrated the smoke at the valley floors,” Bird said. “You can smell it. You can taste it. You can feel the burning sensation in your eyes and your lungs. That’s a good indication that your body is telling you you’re having an impact from that air pollution.”

To see current air quality conditions, go to: https://air.utah.gov/

Utah DEQ: DAQ: Current Conditions: Salt Lake County
Phone forecasts for all counties 801-536-0072 or toll-free 1-800-228-5434.air.utah.gov

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