Smoke may dissipate Friday

By Scott Marshall
Article Launched: 09/06/2007 05:26:51 PM PDT

East Bay air quality improved this afternoon, and a sea breeze tonight will begin to flush smoke from wildfires eastward, authorities said.

Still, the haze will hang around Friday to some extent.

"Smoke shouldn't be as bad" Friday, said Steve Anderson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "It'll still be hazy."

The haze in the East Bay is smoke from the Moonlight fire in Plumas County, which grew to 28,000 acres today and is only 8 percent contained.

That smoke funneled into the East Bay and the Central Valley on Wednesday through the Feather River Canyon, almost as if it were being sucked into the region by a straw.

Satellite imagery showed a freight train of smoke flowing southwest away from the fire. The wind normally blows the other direction. Smoke from the Lick fire in Henry W. Coe State Park south of San Jose did not affect Contra Costa County. That fire grew to 19,000 acres Thursday.

The Plumas County smoke was so pervasive that some Bay Area residents reported finding ash on their cars today.

So even as the air improves, the Bay Area Air Quality District still advised caution this afternoon, particularly for the elderly, people with cardiopulmonary disease or even people who just have a scratchy throat, said Karen Schkolnick, an air district spokeswoman.

"Although air quality over the 24-hour period was healthy throughout region, there are going to be periods of time, if winds change, when particulates will affect population,"

Schkolnick said.

The quality standard is an average of 35 micrograms of particulates per cubic meter of air. The values Thursday in Livermore ranged from 23 to 37, with an average of 28, higher than Wednesday but still within the acceptable range.

The sea breeze that will benefit the East Bay could mean trouble for the San Joaquin Valley, which already was invaded with its own share of smoke from the Moonlight fire. Now the sea breeze could blow Lick fire spoke eastward.

Tracy and Manteca officials are in a quandary about whether to play high school football games Friday night. They have been warned by San Joaquin Air District officials that they should not due to smoke from the Moonlight fire.

Reach Scott Marshall at 925-945-4782 or

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