‘Code Orange’ air quality forecast as fireworks smoke lingers in DC region

WASHINGTON, DC — JULY 4: Fireworks erupt over the Washington Monument during the Independence Day fireworks display along the National Mall on July 4, 2023 in Washington, DC. Crowds of people came together to partake in the annual event commemorating the Fourth of July celebration. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

The National Mall fireworks show attracted thousands to D.C. and lit up the sky in a beautiful display, but it also left lingering smoke and triggered air quality alerts into Wednesday morning.

While air quality has improved from Tuesday night, a “Code Orange” air quality alert is forecast through Thursday. That’s in part due to fireworks leaving behind pollution and also because of ground-level ozone, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

“We’re looking at some very unhealthy levels across parts of our area,” 7News Chief Meteorologist Veronica Johnson said. “There’s no fireworks display that was bigger than what was happening over D.C., and with the winds being out of the west and southwest, we’re seeing some of the fine particle pollutants being carried into Northern Prince George’s County.”

Under a “Code Orange,” air is unhealthy for people in sensitive groups, such as those with heart or lung disease, kids and older adults. People in those groups should limit time outside.

Late Tuesday night, much of the region was put under a “Code Red” and parts of eastern Maryland, which means air is unhealthy for everyone.

Soon after fireworks displays, D.C. was upgraded to an elevated alert, a “Code Purple,” for several hours. A purple alert means air quality was very unhealthy for everyone and officials recommended avoiding strenuous or long outdoor activities.

That “Code Purple” and “Code Red” were downgraded early Wednesday morning though the area remains on alert for unhealthy air. You can check current air quality on AirNow.

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.



WEDNESDAY: Partly sunny. Stray PM storms. Winds: Northwest 3-8 mph. Highs near 90.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT: Scattered clouds. Winds: Light. Lows in the mid 60s to mid 70s.

THURSDAY: Mostly sunny. Isolated PM storms. Winds: Southeast 5-10 mph. Highs near 90.

FRIDAY: Partly cloudy. Scattered PM storms. Winds: Southeast 5-10. Highs near 90.

Current weather:

WTOP’s Jessica Kronzer and Ivy Lyons contributed to this report.

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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