Coughing, sneezing and difficulty breathing: just a few side effects of the recent smoke in the air. Chances are you're still seeing a haze lingering in the air, but experts say it looks a lot worse than it actually is. Though it may still look like smoke to the human eye, it's actually moisture.
From snow to rain, and plenty of that Colorado sunshine, the western slope sees it all.
"It’s been at least a week that the smoke has been visible here in Western Colorado," National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Jim Pringle said.
Smoke isn't something we see every day, but in the last week it's been a daily occurrence. Pringle says the smoke can travel hundreds of miles. The National Weather Service predicts the current smoke is from wildfires as far away as California, Nevada and Idaho. Even though this may seem like a long way away, the smoke is still having an impact on people's breathing.
"Typically the people that are most affected by smoke in the air would be the very young or the elderly and people with other respiratory diseases," Mesa County Health Department air quality specialist Edward Brotsky said.
The Mesa County Health Department says the smoke in the Valley air started moving out on Friday and is nearly gone.
"[The pollution levels are] just barely above what we would consider a baseline level so we're in the good category and things are improving," Brotsky said.
So why then is it still hazy outside? We should know better living here. The weather here can be deceiving.
"Often it can be hard to tell whether it's smoke from distant wildfires or just moisture in the air," Brotsky said. Right now, the current smog we see is predominantly moisture.
This haze, mixed with a few clouds in the sky, can also wrongly convince people the weather is cooler, and veterinarians warn pet owners to take precautions and be alert.
"Don’t think that as the days are shorter that it's therefore okay to keep a dog in an enclosed space," Tiara Rado Animal Hospital veterinarian Frank Coons said.
"The natural topography of the Grand Valley tends to trap smoke and other pollutants down here at the lower elevations," Brotsky said.
Even though the smoke isn't as bad as it looks, it may still take a big storm to take the smoke out completely.
Local veterinarians say they haven't seen pets having difficulty breathing due to the smoke, but instead because of dust storms, wood smoke in houses in winter and cigarette smoke in houses.
If you are still having trouble breathing, the health department recommends you turn off your swamp cooler and reduce the amount of physical activity and time you spend outdoors.
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