Code Orange: Smoke leads to another air quality alert in DC region

Bad news: The D.C. region is in for another round of smoke from Canadian wildfires early this week.

Air quality levels reached Code Orange throughout the WTOP listening area on Monday afternoon due to smoke originating from Canada. A sensor at Northwest D.C.’s McMillan Reservoir noted an air quality index of 137 around mid-afternoon, with some sites near Springfield, Virginia, coming in just shy of Code Red air quality levels.

Though nowhere near as dense as the smoke that prompted last month’s unprecedented health alert, an unmistakable brownish haze lingered over downtown D.C.’s monuments late Monday.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments forecasts Code Orange conditions throughout Tuesday, too — as satellite images showed a low pressure system over the Great Lakes churning a vast area of smoke from Central Canada toward the U.S. East Coast.

An orange alert means airborne pollutants could be hazardous to sensitive groups, including people with heart or lung diseases, young children and older adults. If you’re vulnerable to poor air quality, avoid strenuous outdoor activities and watch for symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website offers a free way to check current air pollution and forecasts for your neighborhood. It also has apps for Apple and Android phones.

7 News First Alert Meteorologist Veronica Johnson said a slow-moving cold front approaching the region on Tuesday afternoon should usher in southwesterly winds and provide some relief, along with a risk for showers and thunderstorms.

For the latest road and traffic conditions, see WTOP’s traffic page or listen to updates every 10 minutes online or on the air at 103.5 FM. Download the free WTOP News app for Android and Apple phones to sign up for custom traffic and weather alerts.


Monday evening: Hazy skies. Partly cloudy. Highs in the low 90s, dropping to near 70 overnight.

Tuesday: Patchy morning fog. Partly cloudy, with an isolated thunderstorm possible in the afternoon and evening. Highs around 90. Heat indexes in the mid to upper 90s.

Wednesday: Partly sunny. Scattered thunderstorms possible. Highs in the mid 80s.

Thursday: Partly sunny. Scattered afternoon showers and thunderstorms, with a risk of heavy rain. Highs in the mid 80s to low 90s.

Current conditions:

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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