The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is cautioning residents of the Treasure Valley that the air quality on Friday, Aug 16, is expected to deteriorate even further.
An Orange Air Quality Alert has been issued for Friday, with an AQI index of 125 (Thursday's AQI was 110.)
Smoke from the region's wildfires continues to be "variable and unpredictable," according to DEQ officials, especially in the Boise and southeastern Treasure Valley. Some areas are expected to experience heavier smoke impacts than others throughout the day. Due to the lingering smoke, air quality is expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups including the elderly, children and people with respiratory or heart disease.
Meanwhile, a Red Flag Warning remains in effect until 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16 for areas north and east of Boise, including portions of the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth national forests.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality announced late Monday what most people in the Treasure Valley already knew: The air quality is lousy, as smoke from regional wildfires continues to blanket the Boise metro area.
But the DEQ took it a step further, issuing a rare orange air quality alert for Tuesday, Aug. 13, with an AQI forecast of 120, meaning the air quality is expected to deteriorate further and be unhealthy for sensitive groups, including people with respiratory illness or heart disease, the elderly and children. Those sensitive to particulate matter, ozone and/or smoke are encouraged to limit outdoor activity. It's also recommended that all other individuals limit prolonged or strenuous outdoor activity.
The DEQ recommends that residents car pool or use mass transit, avoid idling their vehicles, delay fueling vehicles until late in the day and reduce the use of gasoline-powered equipment until late in the day.
The National Weather Service forecasts for smoky days and nights until at least Wednesday evening, Aug. 14. Daytime highs will be in the low 90s and overnight lows will be in the low 60s.
Bitter cold and an ice storm that crippled the Treasure Valley have nothing on the region's longer-lasting weather challenge: poor air quality.
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued another air quality alert for today—the latest in a string warning of unhealthy conditions for the very young and elderly. The alert cautions sensitive people to reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion.
Today's Air Quality Index is 80, which has triggered a ban on both outdoor burning and residential wood heating.
Meanwhile, dense fog blanketed the region this morning, causing hazardous driving conditions, coupled with a wintry mix of freezing rain and snow.
Snow levels are expected to drop to 2,800 feet this evening, with Boise's overnight lows below freezing. More fog is expected for Sunday, Jan. 27.
The long-range forecast calls for snow showers on and off through the week ahead as a storm system sweeps through the region, bringing up to 2 feet of new snow to the upper levels of the Intermountain West.
Warnings from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare urge residents in Lemhi and Custer counties to stay indoors as much as possible.
Air quality in those areas has reached the purple "very unhealthy" category because of wildfire smoke, prompting the Department of Environmental Quality to forecast poor conditions for the next few days.
Older adults, children and those with medical conditions are advised to stay indoors as much as possible. All residents are advised to avoid heavy work or exercise outdoors during poor air quality.
Meanwhile in the Treasure Valley, green or "good" air quality has returned to the Boise, Caldwell and Nampa areas.
Treasure Valley air quality has improved so much that the Boise metro area (including Nampa) has been listed among the Top 25 cleanest cities for annual particle pollution in the United Sates.
The American Lung Association's State of the Air 2012 moved Ada County smog levels from an "F" ranking in its last report up to a "C" grade. Ozone (smog) is the most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources. Ozone is blamed for wheezing, coughing, asthma attacks and premature death.
On the downside, Benewah, Lemhi and Shoshone counties all received an "F" in the latest report for short-term particle pollution.
The air is a bit clearer in Butte and Kootenai counties—two of the cleanest, when it comes to ozone.
But the Lung Association still warned that more than 40 percent of people in the United States—more than 127 million people—live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health.
On August 17 Boise joined a number of key cities that are embracing idling reduction programs. In districts across downtown, the city has posted metal signs that say “Turn your key / be idle free boise.org,” urging residents to switch off their vehicles when parked. The sign sports a logo and a QR code that links to the website.
“Our goal is to educate residents on the effects of idling,” said spokesman for the mayor Adam Park.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation unveiled new fuel economy window stickers Wednesday. You will see them on all new vehicles beginning with the 2013 model year. Simply put, the sticker will, for the first time, estimate annual fuel costs and the vehicle's overall environmental impact.
Following an oppressively hot weekend, the Treasure Valley begins another week with a yellow air alert.
The Department of Environmental Quality has posted the warning, with special attention for sensitive people—very young children, seniors—to take extra caution. The DEQ has already posted yet another yellow alert for Tuesday. Track the Air Quality Index atairnow.gov.