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FROM THE SKY: Pyrocumulonimbus plumes – aka extreme stormy clouds – forming over B.C. wildfires

Health officials urge those with pre-existing health conditions and respiratory issues to remain vigilant

As smoke blankets parts of B.C. due to dozens of burning wildfires, satellite footage is offering a different perspective on how the province’s sunny and clear skies were replaced with clouds and smoke.

The scientif term for the clouds is pyrocumulonimbus plumes, and they are described as large, billowing clouds that can surge over 50,000 feet high during extreme wildfires, essentially creating their own storms by generating lightning.

Earlier this week, due to the record-breaking heat wave, air quality indexes reached levels that sparked warnings in regions such as the Lower Mainland. Currently, air quality concerns are concentrated most in cities closest to large fires burning in Kamloops, Lytton and 100 Mile House.

Health officials urge those with pre-existing health conditions and respiratory issues to remain vigilant amid smoky skies.

Those who are pregnant and children are also at risk of seeing adverse symptoms, from mild irritation to more severe breathing struggles.

Stop or reduce your activity level if breathing becomes uncomfortable or you feel unwell, and stay cool and drink plenty of fluids. Keep medications with you at all times if necessary.

Tips to reduce your smoke exposure:

  • Smoke levels may be lower indoors but will still be elevated, so stay aware of your symptoms even when you are indoors.
  • Running a commercially available HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter can improve indoor air quality in the room where the device is located.
  • If you have a forced air heating/cooling system in your home, it may help to change the filter and set the fan to run continuously.
  • Reduce indoor air pollution sources such as smoking, burning incense, and frying foods.
  • If travelling in a car with air conditioning, keep the windows up and the ventilation set to recirculate.
  • If you are very sensitive to smoke, consider moving to another location with cleaner air, but be aware that conditions can change rapidly.
  • Maintaining good overall health is a good way to prevent health effects resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.


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About the Author: Ashley Wadhwani-Smith

I began my journalistic journey at Black Press Media as a community reporter in my hometown of Maple Ridge, B.C.
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