More ‘unhealthy’ smoky skies forecast over the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday

More 'unhealthy' smoky skies forecast over the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday

Smoky skies over Bethlehem are seen Tuesday, July 20, 2021, from the Lehigh University lookout, attributed to Western wildfires.Kurt Bresswein | For

The Lehigh Valley is forecast to see a second straight day of particle pollution at unhealthy levels for some people.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced an Air Quality Action Day on Wednesday, the same as Tuesday.

The cause is wildfire smoke that has moved from the Pacific Northwest over the region, causing elevated readings of fine particulate matter (2.5 microns), the DEP said.

“Conditions will improve tomorrow as a cold front approaches, but the elevated concentrations will continue through at least the start of the day Wednesday,” the DEP said in announcing another Air Quality Action Day.

Particularly worrisome is the Bootleg Fire, now 606 square miles in size, which has ravaged southern Oregon and is the fourth-largest fire in the state’s modern history. It’s been expanding by up to 4 miles a day, pushed by gusting winds and critically dry weather that’s turned trees and undergrowth into a tinderbox, The Associated Press reports.

Hazy sky in Lehigh Valley from western U.S. wildfires

The sun shines through a hazy sky over Sunset View Drive in Hanover Township, Northampton County. Smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. drifted high in the atmosphere, and particle pollution on the ground made the air unhealthy for some people.Steve Novak | For

The improvement in the Lehigh Valley’s air quality is expected in the afternoon to early evening.

“A slight chance for showers and possibly a thunderstorm will occur in advance of the arrival of this front, but these will not be widespread enough to help to clean out the air prior to the frontal passage,” the DEP said.

Wednesday’s 106 Air Quality Index is deemed “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” the DEP says in its forecast created with the Air Quality Partnership of the Lehigh Valley-Berks Area. Those deemed sensitive include young children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems like asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.

Steps the public can take on days when particle pollution levels are expected to be high include:

  • Reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
  • Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
  • Avoid burning leaves, trash and other materials.

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Kurt Bresswein may be reached at