Metro Vancouver sets terrible new record for continuous air quality advisories

Vancouver Courier

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The worst type of record has been set in Metro Vancouver and more are inevitably on the way.

The 10-day stretch running Aug. 13 to Aug. 22 is the longest period of consecutive air quality advisories in the region’s history.

This photo was taken on the north end of Commercial Drive looking west towards downtown on Aug. 20.
Photograph By JENNIFER GAUTHIER

Last year’s nine-day run in August was the previous low point.

Metro Vancouver staff had yet to decide if another advisory would be issued when contacted by the Courier Thursday morning.

“We are seeing some clearing in the southwest, but unless it proceeds very quickly over the next few hours, we may need to keep the advisory in place for at least a portion of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley,” climate engineer Francis Ries said in an email.

Nineteen advisories were issued in 2017 over the course of 12 months. This year, that number sits at 17.

Metro Vancouver’s air quality health index measured three on a scale of 10 Thursday morning, which translates to no health risk even for those deemed “at risk” — infants, the elderly and those with underlying cardiovascular conditions.

It’s a far cry from Wednesday evening, when the health index read 10-plus and the smell of smoke dominated the air.

Almost 3,700 people working for the city and park board are outside on a daily basis, and their workflows are changing consistently depending on the air quality.

“If employees report symptoms consistent with exposure to the environmental smoke, the employees are to be accommodated by being assigned less strenuous work or to be temporarily reassigned to indoor work,” city spokesperson Jag Sadhu told the Courier in an email.

The lone professional sports team playing outside right now, the Vancouver Canadians are also keeping tabs on the air quality as they open up a five-day stretch of games beginning today. The club has played most of its games in August on the road.

“We have a full staff on-hand out at the ballpark ready to assist any fan who may feel discomfort — but we also anticipate enjoying our upcoming homestand and will be ready and informed should anything change,” Canadians director of communications Rob Fai said Wednesday.

Environment Canada’s forecast suggests rain is in the offing today through Sunday, though only in minimal amounts.