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This article was published 16/8/2018 (693 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It looked as though a vintage Instagram filter had been placed on Winnipeg Thursday.
Despite the "mostly sunny" forecast, the blue sky that often accompanies a sunshine-filled day was nowhere in sight; it was replaced by an unusual jaundice hue, due to wildfire smoke spreading across the Prairies from over 2,000 kilometres west in B.C.
Environment Canada issued an air quality alert for all of southern Manitoba Thursday.
The 500 fires in B.C. are responsible for the pollution that caused the sky to look a "muted light yellow," said Natalie Hasell, an Environment Canada metereologist based in Winnipeg. And while the Environment Canada alert said smoky conditions were expected to clear with a cold front passing through the city Thursday night, Hasell said it's likely there will be more hazy skies in Winnipeg in the coming weeks.
"The fire situation in B.C. isn't going to be improving any time soon. No rain is forecast for them," she said.
The air quality in Winnipeg was of low to moderate risk Thursday afternoon, sitting at category three on the Air Quality Health Index. The city was forecast to reach five on the AQHI, which ranks air quality on pollution levels up to a severe concern at level 10 and over. For comparison, Winnipeg normally sits at about one or two.
Smoky conditions mean Winnipeggers who fall into the at-risk group, including children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic heart or lung conditions, should be wary of spending time outside, said Dr. Heejune Chang, a medical officer of health at the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
"For the rest of the population, there's no need to modify your usual outdoor activities, unless you're noticing symptoms," Chang said.
Anyone could experience extreme fatigue, coughing, watery eyes, throat irritation, headache, runny nose, tightness in the chest or wheezing if active outside for an extended period of time in Thursday's conditions, Chang said. Those who do experience any symptoms should rest inside a well-ventilated building.
A WRHA spokesperson said Thursday afternoon that visits to emergency departments and urgent care were "within our normal range" and that it's impossible to determine if air conditions contributed to any presentations because triage categories don't identify potential triggers for reported conditions.
North End resident Lloyd Hannesson said he noticed cold-like symptoms Thursday. "I have a bit of the sniffles (Thursday), but not nearly as bad as when you could smell the smoke in the air earlier this summer. I feel bad for those who suffer with severe asthma though."
Hannesson said he was lucky to be able to spend the day in an air-conditioned office, but his kids had to cancel plans to visit a splash pad as a result of the smoky conditions.
Up until 11 a.m., Hasell said Winnipeg's air quality was nearly normal since the smoke was aloft. The sky looked much scarier than it actually was, the meteorologist said, adding she recalls similar skies in 2016 during the Fort McMurray wildfire.
The hazy colour above Winnipeg Thursday was "very typical" of daytime conditions under thick decks of smoke, she said. Blue and purple hues in the sky are lost when smoke particles scatter, defracting and dimming light and leaving yellows, oranges and reds.
"Thankfully, we are not the ones on fire. I would expect it's extremely difficult in B.C. right now and Alberta, being so much closer to the smoke. Manitoba is not seeing anything near the worst of it," she said.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg airport said no flights were affected due to the smoke Thursday.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
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