ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) –You’ve likely seen the thick haze across the metro and even blocking the view of the Sandias. Bernalillo County officials have issued a health alert because of that smoke coming in from those California wildfires. The health alert has been extended until 7 p.m. on August 9.

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Albuquerque is in the red level meaning these conditions are unhealthy for everyone and not just people with respiratory conditions. Officials say people should consider staying indoors and avoiding difficult activities.

People we talked to say they were surprised by the haze. “We went to a few parks and stuff and they would put viewpoints in and we couldn’t actually see them, it was really…a lot of haze,” explains Andreas Paljug who is visiting New Mexico.

The dense smoke and haze can cause a scratchy throat. The air quality alert started yesterday and runs through Monday, August 9 at noon. 

Experts say they expect conditions to improve over the next twelve hours. But Jeff Stonesifer, the meteorologist for the city of Albuquerque’s Air Quality Program, explains why the alert could be extended. 

“We may have to extend that because of high Ozone levels tomorrow. The winds are expected to be light again tomorrow and there will still be enough smoke around to fuel Ozone levels,” he says. 

Stonesifer says we should know by 11:30 a.m. Monday morning if that happens. Stonesifer says it’s not uncommon for wildfires from neighboring states to impact Albuquerque’s air quality like we’re seeing today. 

The program provides a daily air quality report every Monday through Friday around 8 a.m. The daily report shares the air quality index calculation for that time. You can sign up to directly receive Albuquerque’s health alerts through the city’s website.

5-3-1 Visibility Method

If it is smoky outside find out how far you can see. First, decide if the visibility is closer to 5 miles, 3 miles or 1 mile. pick a landmark you are familiar with and see if you can see it. Facing away from the sun, look for landmarks such as mountains, mesas, hills, or buildings in those mile ranges to help you estimate visibility. If these objects are not easy to see in these mile ranges, then decide:

5 Miles

Is the visibility under 5 miles? If you can see less than 5 miles, the air quality is unhealthy for young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness; they should minimize outdoor activity. These people should reschedule outdoor recreational activities for a day with better air quality. It is okay for adults in good health to be out and about but they should periodically check visibility especially when fires are nearby.

3 Miles

Is the visibility just about 3 miles? Young children, adults over age 65, pregnant women, and people with heart and/or lung disease, asthma or other respiratory illness should avoid all outdoor activities. These people should stay indoors. All outdoor activities should be avoided, including running errands. Everyone else should try to stay indoors as much as possible. All outdoor recreational activities should be rescheduled for a day with better air quality.

1 Mile

Is the visibility about 1 mile? If you can see less than 1 mile that means the air quality is unhealthy for everyone. People should remain indoors and avoid all outdoor activities including running errands. Unless an evacuation has been issued, stay inside your home, indoor workplace, or in a safe shelter.

Regardless of the visibility, if you are feeling as though you are having health effects from smoke, take precautions to avoid exposure to smoke and see your doctor or health professional as needed.

Since the southwest United States typically has very low humidity, visibility can be an effective tool to determine if it is healthy to be outside when smoke is present. The visibility test is not appropriate or effective in areas with high humidity, such as the southeastern United States, where water vapor (fog) may limit visibility.