Medicine Hat reacts to heavy smoke

By Jessie Weisner
May 31, 2019 - 3:49pm Updated: May 31, 2019 - 7:20pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB -- Wildfires have been raging in northern Alberta for weeks, forcing more than 10,000 people from their homes.

Now the wildfire smoke has finally head south, and it’s not pretty.

Plumes of smoke flowed into Medicine Hat Thursday, engulfing the Gas City, and turning the sky grey.

According to Kyle Fougere with Environment and Climate Change Canada, a weather system created the perfect storm to spread the smoke as far as Illinois.

“In behind the cold front we saw northerly winds,” says Fougere. “So that's what was able to take that smoke that had been confined in Northern Alberta and really spread it all the way south across the province.”

Medicine Hat is gearing up for an active, outdoor weekend, with the Spectrum Festival at Kin Coulee Park kicking off Friday evening.

However, with the air quality index listed as ‘moderate risk’, there is a level of concern with having Hatters outdoors.

Event organizers say they’re taking necessary precautions, and emergency personnel will be on site.

According to Tammy Sweeney, director of entertainment for the Spectrum board, they’re taking necessary precautions.

“It’s not the most ideal conditions weather wise, but we’ll keep an eye on it, she said. “We have an emergency response plan in place, we keep an eye on the weather advisories and stay in touch with local authorities as well, if there is a danger we’ll certainly let people know.”

The Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education is also reacting to the smoke today. All outdoor recess and phys-ed classes have been moved indoors, and all outdoor field trips have been postponed.

The smoke put a damper on outdoor pools, which opened for the season on Friday.

Students were scheduled for swimming lessons in the morning, but due to the ban on outdoor activities the pool was left mostly empty.

The Medicine Hat Golf and Country Club was largely empty Thursday afternoon when the smoke rolled in.

“Yesterday we had a few cancellations early in the afternoon when the wind blew it in around 3:30 in the afternoon so a few people phoned in and said ‘maybe we shouldn’t go’,” says Wayne Mattson, head golf professional at the club.

However, golfers were back at it Friday.

“I was playing yesterday too when it rolled in, thought it was going to be a thunderstorm and it turned out to be just a big smoke cloud,” says Colton Mohl. “It’s definitely smoky out here but I wouldn’t trade it for the world, still beautiful out, still see every hole so it’s good.”

Fougere recommends people take extra care when going outside.

“People that already have heart and lung issues are particularly in danger because when you have this fine particular matter, it can really embed into your lungs and even get into your bloodstream, so if you have those issues you should really limit your exposure to outdoors,” he said.

The wind is now coming from the south, so no more smoke will be coming down from Northern Alberta.

“It does look like this weekend there’s a low pressure system that’s going to move through the area,” says Fougere. “That should hopefully clear that out probably by Sunday.”

Malcolm Sissons named to Alberta Order of Excellence