Air quality drops to extreme levels in Calgary
A special air quality statement is in effect for Calgary and surrounding areas because of a thick blanket of smoke coming from several nearby wildfires.
Environment Canada predicted the Air Quality Health Index to reach a very high risk, or 10+, on Saturday.
The advisory is also in place for many areas of southern Alberta, including the City of Airdrie that was also forecasted for a 10+ on the risk scale.
The conditions cause coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath.
Children, seniors and those suffering from breathing issues are considered to be particularly at risk in the conditions.
Some Calgarians who were out on Saturday were surprised to see that the smoke was so bad.
"It's really hazy," said Sara Grossi who was at the Taste of Calgary festival. "Hazier than I've ever seen before."
Cyndi Smith says the air quality has caused some real problems for her because of her asthma.
"It's like an elephant sitting on your chest. I walk and i sound like I'm 80, I'm out of breath."
Smith says she has been limiting her outside time because of the forest fire smoke and the record heat in the city this week.
"It's been so hot this week, so I go out for a couple hours a day then go inside and close my windows."
Adam Loria with Calgary EMS says that it's smart for any member of the general public to take some precautions in the smoky conditions.
"We recommend staying indoors with windows closed and locked. If you have a furnace or some sort of device that recirculates fresh air from the outside into your house, we recommend shutting that off for the time being."
He says that they are focusing on people who suffer from pre-existing respiratory issues.
"The air quality could affect to a greater extent that subset."
The air quality is expected to improve on Sunday with some rain in the forecast.
CTV Calgary Weather Specialist Warren Dean says the change in weather pattern over the next while will help to blow away the smoke.
"With a cooler and more dense air moving into the province today, the smoke was pushed down, closer to the surface. This low pressure system will produce winds to the ENE as well as rain which will help dissipate and move the smoke out of the area."
As for the wildfire situation itself, Parks Canada says that Highway 93 south through Kootenay National Park remains closed because of the adverse conditions.
Officials say they will continue to evaluate the situation, including the risk of falling trees and amounts of smoke impacting visibilty, that will determine when they can reopen the highway.
Drivers are advised that they could wait for some time at the road blocks with very little notice, so it's best to plan ahead before you get on the road.