SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The smoky haze levels reached hazardous levels in Livermore and throughout the Tri-Valley area Friday as the air quality quickly deteriorated throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to the EPA’s Air Now website, the Air Quality Index (AQI) levels soared to 322 in Livermore and 474 in Tracy by 2 p.m.
San Francisco had risen to 240 by 2 p.m., Oakland was at 255 and Berkeley was at 262.
Colleges, schools, businesses, San Francisco’s famous cable cars and the Alcatraz Island all were shut down for the day the layer of smoke from the distant Camp Fire continued to create unhealthy breathing conditions in the Bay Area.
And there was no immediate relief in sight as an air quality warning for the region has been extended until at least next Tuesday as a high pressure system remains stalled off the Northern California coast, locking the smoke into the Bay Area and the fire continues to burn near Paradise.
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Officials at UC-Berkeley cancelled classes for Friday and were forced to reschedule Saturday’s ‘Big Game’ gridiron showdown with Stanford until Dec. 1st. Cal also was forced to cancel its Thursday night men’s basketball game against the University of Detroit Mercy.
The AQI levels in Berkeley soared to 260 by 1 p.m. Friday and were expected to soar even higher.
The annual showdown between geographical rivals UC Davis and Sacramento State was moved from Davis to McKay Stadium in Reno, Nev.
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Meanwhile, the University of San Francisco men’s basketball game against Arizona State was postponed for Friday.
“With rising concerns for the health of everyone involved in Friday’s contest, as well as concerns for those affected by the tragic fires in Butte County and Southern California it was agreed that playing the game was not in the best interest of anyone,” university officials said in an email.
The Thanksgiving travel rush had also began Friday at the Bay Area airports. San Francisco International reported there had been 195 flights delayed with the average delay being 45 minutes. Officials were advising travelers to check with carriers as the day and AQI levels climbed.
Transit officials in both San Francisco and San Jose announced that public transit aboard buses and light rail vehicles would be free on Friday to limit residents exposure to the smoke.
“While it’s important people try to stay indoors, Mayor (London) Breed wants people to be able to get around, whether to work or a respite center or wherever they need to go, without having to exert themselves in this unhealthy air,” said Jeff Cretan, the mayor’s spokesperson.
Across the Bay Area, high schools and elementary schools were closed except in Santa Clara County and Sonoma County was allowing each school to make it own decision on whether to open or not.
Thanksgiving holiday travelers to the Bay Area were stunned by the haze draped over San Francisco.
“We come all the from Pennsylvania to see the Golden Gate Bridge and ride a cable car and sadly we can’t do either today,” Michelle Shelly told KPIX 5.
Denise Snedeker, visiting from Arizona, also couldn’t help but be annoyed by the bad air.
“It’s more of an annoyance because we don’t live here and we’re leaving in a couple days, but I feel bad for you guys,” she said.
Local residents, particularly in Livermore where the AQI levels have been soaring in the afternoons, have been struggling with lung congestion and headaches.
“It builds up over the Altamont, there’s no outlet and then swirls around and it stays in Livermore,” said local resident Laurent Maccario.
“When I saw the Air Quality Index kind of max out I had a severe headache and it was just, I was really sluggish,” added Heather Figuers.
Weather forecasters say some relief will be on the way next week as there was a possibility of rain beginning Wednesday.