Coastal fires blanket Triangle with a smoky haze

From staff reportsJune 21, 2011 

Smoke from coastal fires has enveloped much of the Triangle in a smelly haze today, and a code red air quality alert is in effect until 6 a.m. Wednesday. A code orange alert has been issued from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday. People sensitive to air pollution are advised to stay indoors.

The heavy smoke has prompted many people to call 911, thinking there's a fire nearby. Emergency officials have asked people to be mindful of the wildfire smoke before calling 911.

Meanwhile, the town of Cary has canceled all outdoor sports programs and activities this evening, including softball, baseball, sand volleyball and tennis, because of the smoky skies and poor air quality.

A blaze in Pender County, about 25 miles north of Wilmington, is bringing smoke to the Triangle, said Brandon Vincent, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Raleigh office.

Wind coming from the southeast blew the smoke inland Monday night and this morning. The direction of the wind will soon shift, coming from the southwest, pushing the smoke away from the Triangle, the Weather Service says.

"The trend should be getting better this afternoon," Vincent said.

The smoke, while it lingers, might affect those who have asthma and are sensitive to particles in the air, Vincent said.

In addition, smoke from blazes in Dare County and Georgia is likely to affect residents from mainland Dare County to Beaufort, Morehead City, Swansboro, Wilmington, New Bern, Edenton, Elizabeth City, and the Outer Banks, the Weather Service said.

A code red means that fine particulate concentrations within the region may approach or exceed unhealthy standards, which could be dangerous for people with chronic illnesses, children, the elderly and outdoor laborers.

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