Air quality expected to improve, warning still in effect

The water tower the workers were inspecting from sits 120 feet high. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

Outdoor classes and activities were canceled at Fresno State on Monday due to poor air quality. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the worst may have passed.

Considering the improved air quality and the projection of fewer winds kicking up dust into the air, the campus is expected to remain open for the remainder of the week, according to a university news release.

On Sunday, the Air Quality Index (AQI) reached 520, falling into the hazardous category, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) AirNow website. By Sunday evening, the AQI had fallen to 115 (unhealthy for sensitive groups) and was predicted to be at 62 (moderate) on Monday.

The AQI was 95 at 6:30 a.m. on Monday but rose to 248 by 2 p.m., prompting the university to halt all outdoor activities for the day. By 8:30 p.m. on Monday, the AQI again fell, this time to 103. 

The EPA’s forecast only predicts the AQI up to 24 hours, which could fluctuate over the next few days.  

The AQI on Tuesday was forecast at 97 and fell to 71 by 7 p.m. and is expected to reach 101 on Wednesday.

According to the NWS, there will be less wind causing particulate matter and dust to be kicked up into the air for the remainder of the week.

“It doesn’t look like there will be as much wind,” said Kevin Durfee, meteorologist at the NWS. “But it doesn’t take a lot of wind to kick up some dust.”

Durfee said that the combination of dust from the winds and smoke from fires in California made the air considerably hazardous early this week. 

While there is not as much wind anticipated for the rest of the week, Durfee said that the air quality warning will likely remain in effect until Thursday for sensitive groups, including those with respiratory illnesses, young children and elderly adults.

Durfee added there does appear to be a cold, dry air mass moving into the Central Valley, which could bring some of the coldest weather the Valley has seen since March, including some frost on the west side of the Valley. This cold front may also bring additional winds, though not as much as earlier this week.

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