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BEAR FLAT DISPATCH: Living with wildfire smoke

A katabatic wind is a drainage wind.
New Cache Creek Bridge covered in smoke last month.

After almost three weeks of wildfires and smoke in the region, it sure is nice to see cooler temperatures and a significant rain event finally arrive.  As I write this on May 25th, it looks like we are getting a break from the worst of wildfire conditions which will be a relief for firefighters and affected residents.  This is also a much-needed change for farmers who desperately needed the moisture.

However, it seems that the ‘new normal’ (I hate that phrase) includes living with smoke from wildfires more than in the past.  While most people can get by ok with some smoke, it is not healthy, and is especially problematic for some.  Recent conditions were so severe that we found ourselves limiting time spent outdoors as much as possible and even wearing N95 masks when it was the worst.  The dreary conditions created by heavy smoke can also be somewhat depressing with days of apocalyptic like conditions.  

Living with smoke in hot weather is especially challenging.   Without air conditioning in our older home, we have always relied on having the windows and blinds closed during the day but wide open at night to moderate our indoor temperatures during times of high daytime temperatures.  However, smoky air throws a wrench into that practice as windows should be kept closed then.   Recently with the Red Creek fire, we have experienced how the evening flow of air down the creek has filled the low elevation Peace River valley at Bear Flat full of smoke during the night.  That is caused by the effect of katabatic winds.  Wikipedia explains it as such:

A katabatic wind (named from Ancient Greek κατάβασις ( katábasis) 'descent') is a drainage wind, a wind that carries high-density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity. 

I first learned of katabatic wind when I was a hunting guide working in the mountains and one had to pay attention to such things. More pronounced and sometimes problematic in the mountains was the anabatic wind which move air upslope during the day.

But I digress. Fortunately, most of the smoke so far this spring took place with fairly moderate temperatures, but that will not always be the case.  Having a well-functioning HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system in your home is beneficial during times of dense smoke in hot temperatures.  In fact, with the various impacts of climate change hitting us, having your home as efficient as possible and fire-guarded is becoming more important.



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