‘Code Red’ air quality into Thursday as smoke from Canadian wildfires returns to DC area

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Where there’s smoke, there’s Canadian wildfires, and the smog is drifting back to the D.C. area to round out the week. Here’s what you need to know.

It was “Code Orange” Wednesday and “Code Red” by the evening in the D.C. area, which means the air quality will be unhealthy for all — not just sensitive groups like children, older adults and people with asthma and other respiratory conditions who should limit their physical activity.

It won’t get better on Thursday, when air quality is projected to stay at “Code Red.” Particle pollution will be worse than Wednesday, 7News First Alert meteorologist Jordan Evans said.

“Unhealthy air for everybody”

“Any summer camps on this Thursday or recreation should be inside,” said 7News Chief Meteorologist Veronica Johnson.

The poor air quality should only remain in the region through Thursday night. Experts recommend wearing protective face masks, driving with the windows up and keeping windows closed inside your home.

The dry weather forecasted for Thursday will reach nearly 90 degrees, and won’t help if you plan to do strenuous activity outdoors.

“Milky look to the sky”

“Northwesterly winds will transport wildfire smoke back into the region on Wednesday,” WTOP meteorologist Mike Stinneford said.

This time, though, the smoke will be high in the atmosphere — around 20,000 to 25,000 feet, so Stinneford said “we’ll have a milky look to the sky.”

Earlier this month, air quality and visibility plummeted when the D.C. area had a “Code Purple” air quality.

“This is not going to be like the smoke that we saw earlier in the month, but we are going to be looking out for some haze that could cause some issues for unhealthy and sensitive groups,” said 7News First Alert meteorologist Mark Peña.

Stinneford said the smoke is taking a “circuitous route to get here” — through Canada, the Midwest and then the D.C. area — and that the smoke should be out of the region by Friday.


As the smoke clears by Friday, humidity and storm changes increase. The heat index on Friday is expected to be about 95 degrees.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Mainly clear. Lows in the low to upper 60s.

THURSDAY: Mostly sunny. Highs in the mid to upper 80s.

FRIDAY: Partly cloudy. Isolated afternoon thunderstorm. Highs in the mid to upper 80s.

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Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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