SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — First it was the COVID-19 pandemic that kept Bay Area residents struck in their homes. On Saturday, it was a massive plume of wildfire smoke and ash stalled over the region.
The Air Quality Index readings were hovering between a 175 in Redwood City to 187 in Livermore on Saturday morning. The vast majority of the AQI readings for all Bay Area communities fell into the red category — meaning the air was unhealthy to breathe.
— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) September 12, 2020
Bay Area air quality officials issued a ‘Spare the Air’ alert for a record 26th straight day and warned the conditions may not drastic improve until next week.
“A thick blanket of smoke from the many wildfires blazing in California and Oregon is causing unhealthy air quality in the Bay Area,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. “More than ever this weekend, residents should track air quality conditions in their communities and protect their health and avoid smoke exposure by staying indoors.”
National Weather Service forecasters echoed Broadbent’s comments.
“Large amounts of smoke remain offshore while current smoke activity from the Creek, Dolan, Bobcat and Sequoia Complex fires continues to impact portions of the Central Coast and Bay Area,” the weather service said. “Bottom line is we have smoke coming at us from virtually all directions so expect continued smoke impacts through today and into Sunday morning. ”
The NWS forecasters did hint that clearer skies may be on tap for next week.
“There is some hint that increasing southwest winds by Sunday afternoon could bring some cleaner air into the region,” they said.
They also posted a satellite photo showing the plume stretching hundreds of miles into the Pacific.
A massive swirl of smoke.
Quite the extraordinary atmospheric feature. pic.twitter.com/7usBzxwBEr
— Dakota Smith (@weatherdak) September 12, 2020
The San José Department of Parks and Recreation and Neighborhood Services announced it was closing several park locations due to poor air quality with all outdoor activities to be reduced as much as possible.
Closures include the following regional parks:
- Almaden Lake
- Alum Rock Park
- Edenvale Gardens Regional Park
- Emma Prusch Farm Park
- Japanese Friendship Garden
- Guadalupe Oak Grove
- Lake Cunningham Park
- Municipal Rose Garden
- Overfelt Gardens
The above locations will reopen as air quality improves. Neighborhood parks remain accessible to the public with the exception of Lincoln Glen which is under construction.
Oakland officials announced Saturday they were opening two additional fresh air respite centers. The centers activated on Saturday are the Oakland Public Library 81st Avenue Branch, 1021 81st Ave., from 1 to 7 p.m.; and the St. Vincent de Paul Community Center, 2272 San Pablo Ave., from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Two respite centers that opened Friday will also be available on Saturday. The Dimond Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 3565 Fruitvale Ave. will be open from noon to 7 p.m. and the North Oakland Senior Center at 5714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way will be open from noon to 5 p.m.
In San Francisco, just a week out from the six-month anniversary of the coronavirus lockdown, the hazardous smoke levels were presenting yet another challenge for some struggling business owners.
“First we had to deal with the COVID and the shutdown,” says Maurice Darwish, owner of the Cove On Castro. “Then all of a sudden, we’ve got fires and smoke. It’s a very sad situation for everybody all around.”
The slow-motion emergency just continues for Darwish. After closing his doors for three months, the outdoor partnership with the bar next door was just starting to work out.
“We’re very pleased with it,” Darwish said. “But then again, you got a hit from the left side with the fires and the ash and the air.”
With empty tables, deserted parks, and very slow streets, for the second day in a row, the bad air gave the city an emptiness that felt more like the start of the shutdown.
“This is so bizarre,” Alston Laughlin said in an empty Golden Gate Park Panhandle. “There’s nobody here. It’s kind of freaky.”
Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers NFL regular season opener against Arizona was still on schedule to be played Sunday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
“Everything has been weird in 2020 and everybody has to play up under it so we just have to go out there and execute and win,” said 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan says a player with pre-existing conditions did not take part in the final practice of the week but he’s hopeful that the team will play on Sunday.
“If it happens Sunday, my understanding is if it gets to 200, the NFL will start really discussing what it will do with the game. I don’t think it’s my decision at all, I know it’s not. Thank goodness,” Shanahan said.