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Experts Explain Why Air Quality And Smoke Levels Are Different Around Sacramento Region

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As smoke continues to blanket the sky and fill the lungs of plenty of people in Sacramento and the rest of California, there's a burning question. Why is the smoke so bad in some areas and not in others?

The answer to that question is actually blowing in the wind. It's one of the factors of where and how much smoke is in a given place.

"A wind event like we had yesterday into this morning, not only can kick up more smoke from those fires," Michelle Mead, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at National Weather Service – Sacramento, said. "But areas like the northern valley that were socked in smoke get cleared out and areas were cleared out, unfortunately, now get socked in with smoke."

Mead also mentioned a surface inversion creating less wind to blow smoke out of the Sacramento area and a north to south wind shift. Wind direction and speed are factors when it comes to where and how wind pushes smoke into areas like Sacramento.

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"So with all of those things, you're going to see smoke come and go really until these fire stop burning and stop producing smoke. So you may have areas that are more impacted than other areas," Jamie Aron, spokesperson for Sac Metro Air District, said.

The reason why it may be a little better in the morning hours is because the smoke isn't at ground level. When wind is bringing in smoke, it's still in the air and not at a point where it can travel to where people come into full contact with it.

So while air quality levels may look good in the morning, they can change in a hurry.

"During the afternoon, it starts to mix. And that mixing brings the smoke down to ground level where you can see it and you can actually smell it," Aron said.

There's also a concern about what could happen with breathing in the smoke for as long as it has been around in the air.

"You never know what the long term effect can be," Margarita Brown said.

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"Definitely cause for concern. Definitely worried about it," Carson Mack said.

So how worried should you be? Dr. Peter Murphy, ICU Director at Mercy San Juan Medical Center, likened the situation to smoking cigarettes. Healthy people may feel the effects of all this smoke down the road. But if you have a pre-existing condition, stay inside at least until the smoke clears.

"People here with particularly with significant heart or lung disease will probably notice," Murphy said. "The lung disease will notice coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath."

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