Heavy smoke from North Bay wildfires blankets Bay Area; some air quality levels rated ‘very unhealthy’

Heavy smoke from wildfires in Sonoma and Napa counties prompted a smoke advisory throughout the Bay Area, with air quality readings in some areas well above the level considered “very unhealthy,” the region’s air board said.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District said a monitor in Napa recorded an air quality index of 442 Monday morning, with a high of 292 in San Rafael. Air quality indexes of 201 to 300 are considered “very unhealthy,” said Kristine Roselius, a district spokeswoman.

Late Monday morning, Napa was at 159 and San Rafael at 164, she said.

The district has no monitor in Sonoma.

Air quality above 100 is considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” and from 151 to 200 is unhealthy.

Roselius said she could not recall air quality indexes so high for such a sustained period.

Particulate matter in smoke can irritate the eyes and airways, causing coughing, a scratchy throat and irritated sinuses, the district said. Smoke causes a greater risk to the elderly, children and people with respiratory illnesses.

“If it smells smoky or looks smoky it’s a good time to stay indoors and especially to avoid exercise,” Roselius said.

Setting air conditioning to recirculate air rather than pull in outside air is also recommended, she said.

Breezy conditions, with north winds gusting more than 30 mph, will continue through Monday morning, a National Weather Service forecaster said.

The wind is expected to ease Monday afternoon and evening and shift to a flow from the south, meteorologist Roger Gass said.

Temperatures in the Sonoma and Napa county fire area will hit the mid- to upper 80s Monday and cool by about 10 degrees Tuesday, he said.

Humidity was in the teens Monday, but should rise to 60 percent to 85 percent Monday night, especially in North Bay valleys, while the hills remain drier.

Smoke will linger in the air in the two counties, especially to the west of the fires, Gass said.

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