A dust advisory has been lifted for Vernon, just in time for the Winter Carnival to kick off.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority, has ended the dust advisory issued on Jan. 29 for Vernon due to high concentrations of coarse particulates. Changing weather conditions have contributed to improving air quality, and this is expected to continue over the next few days.
Coarse particulate (PM10) concentrations have been decreasing, and are currently below advisory levels. Latest PM10 measurements at the Vernon Science Centre indicate an hourly average of 14 micrograms per cubic metre. The average for the past 24 hours is 24 micrograms per cubic metre, which is below the provincial air quality objective of 50 micrograms per cubic metre.
Dusty conditions were mainly caused by road traffic stirring up winter traction materials that have accumulated on roadways over the winter months.
“It’s strictly the road traction material that’s put down and the weather conditions we’ve had in the past couple days is low and dry,” said Graham Veale, MoE air quality meteorologist.
A snapshot of the air quality health index (which focuses on fine particulate matter of PM2.5) Friday morning shows Vernon with moderate levels, compared to the rest of the province sitting in low.
“It’s not that Vernon’s the only place with elevated PM10 right now,” said Veale, noting Burns Lake and Castlegar also saw raised levels.
“It’s just a fact of life that they need to put down traction material so we don’t slide off the road and into crashes.”
And other Okanagan communities were close.
“In Kelowna they had elevated PM10 it just wasn’t quite at that level where we’d issue an advisory.”
While this is normally a spring issue, the conditions could repeat again before then for the North Okanagan.
But so far, the air has settled.
“It is clear – it looks pretty good across the valley right now,” said Veale.
“We don’t have that stagnant air mass just sitting which tends to hold things close to the ground.”
With that clearing, the mercury is forecast to drop.
Environment Canada is calling for a chance of flurries or rain showers Friday with a high of 2C and low of -1. There’s a 40 per cent chance of flurries for Vernon Winter Carnival parade day Saturday before temperatures plummet to -7 overnight.
A high of -6 with snow is forecast for Sunday with a low of -11 overnight. Clearing will occur Monday with a high of -7 and low of -16.
“It’s going to be pretty cold but the air should be clear,” said Veale.
Real-time air quality information from Vernon and other B.C. communities can be found at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/air-land-water/air.