TREASURE VALLEY -- Smoky skies are going to linger for the next few days, but the air quality is expected to get a little better.
With everyone starting to plan their weekend activities, we wanted to check on some events going on across the Treasure Valley and whether the smoke is putting a damper on them.
The weather is typically really nice the weekend after Labor Day, so there are several outdoor local events planned for Thursday through Sunday that have been in the works for a while. Event organizers KTVB spoke with say it's still full steam ahead since our air is expected to improve, but that people should use their best judgment.
"We had two softball games canceled because of it, Tuesday and Wednesday night." one Boise resident we caught up with downtown, Dave Brandt, said. "I had a mask on yesterday when I was working."
"I had to cut a hike short yesterday... I didn't go mountain biking today or tomorrow, for worry. I didn't feel good after my walk yesterday in the foothills so I laid off today," another resident, Molly Armpriest, added.
High school and recreational sporting events and other outdoor activities have been canceled or re-scheduled throughout the week as this nasty, smoky haze smothers the Valley.
But what about Friday and this coming weekend? Various events are scheduled now through Sunday - from high school sports to the Boise Art Museum Art in the Park.
The Department of Environmental Quality extended their state-wide air quality advisory through 10 a.m. on Friday, at which time conditions will be evaluated again on a county-by-county basis. Optimistic news is the department is forecasting the air quality index to drop from 'Unhealthy' to 'Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups' by Saturday.
"Air quality remains in the Moderate to Very Unhealthy categories throughout most of the state. Expect statewide impacts to continue through Thursday. Friday offers a possibility of relief to the southern Idaho airsheds as the upper level winds shift to the southwest while high concentrations are expected to persist in North Idaho," DEQ's Air Quality Meterologist Jacob Wolf said.
"For sporting events - especially for coaches, whether it's rec league, high school for practice - in the Red category we would really ask them to consider moving it indoors if you can," Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Public Information Officer Chris Smith said, "If not, consider breathing rates. So that means more substitutions, longer rest intervals, and maybe not as strenuous, vigorous workouts."
Smith says if the air quality is in the Red 'Unhealthy' category, coaches should consider rescheduling or relocating their event. If it's in the purple, he says, definitely reschedule or relocate your scheduled sporting event or conduct practice and games indoors only.
If the air quality drops down to the Orange 'Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups' range, Health and Welfare advises the following when it comes to scheduled sporting events and athletic practice and training: "Individuals with asthma or other respiratory illness should be medically managing their condition and coaches or others responsible for children during a wildfire smoke event should increase rest periods and substitutions for all participants to lower breathing rates."
In terms of the 63rd annual Art in the Park, Boise Art Museum Executive Director Melanie Fales says it would be "pretty much impossible" to cancel the event, and that it's still a go this weekend.
"We have had smoky events during Art in the Park in the past and it didn't impact the event at all," Fales added.
"It's a little smoggy this year," local watercolor artist and fifth-time Art in the Park vendor Anne Watson Sorensen said, "I was a little worried yesterday but it's back. The light is filtering through the trees. It's like, 'oh I don't really notice it.' "
Fales says each event is a year in the making and they have been working all week long this week to get the park ready.
"The artists are here, they're setting up, they're ready to go. Obviously people need to take care of their own health and we want people not to jeopardize their personal health situation. But we have the artists here and food vendors here and volunteers here and Boise Art Museum staff here, so we're running full steam ahead," she added.
"I see a few people a few vendors wearing the masks," Watson Lorensen said. "It's not bothering me at all."
Over in Meridian on Saturday, the 8th annual Community Block Party at Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park is planned. A full-day event, it's featuring animal expert/biologist Corbin Maxey, the Summerwind Skippers, as well as inflatables, bubble soccer, a climbing wall, food trucks, performances by local bands, theater groups and more.
"The air quality is definitely a concern for us. Public safety is our top priority so we've been monitoring the conditions actively all week," City of Meridian Parks and Recreation Director Steve Siddoway told KTVB.
If air quality is in the Purple 'Very unhealthy' category or higher, City of Meridian Parks staff says they'll have to cancel the party. Siddoway says once DEQ puts out their air quality index forecast for Saturday on Friday afternoon, they'll make the call. However, hazardous levels are not expected.
"If it's lower than that, however, we will hold the event. If it's in the Red category we'll hold the event but maybe modify some of the activities to avoid some of the higher exertion."
"We're hopeful the event will be a go and we're making plans for that," Siddoway added.
Event organizers do say they are anticipating a possibly lower turn-out because people are opting to stay indoors with this poor air quality.
For anything you're planning outside this weekend, state health officials advise as long as our air is in unhealthy, tread lightly.
"Walking around the park, those kinds of things," Smith said. "Use common sense and give yourself breaks from the outdoor air. Go inside to a covered pavilion or something and just get out of it when you can."
The air quality forced school officials to reschedule Thursday night's varsity football game between Boise High School and Timberline High School. That game is now set for 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Borah vs. Columbia game has been moved up to 11 a.m. Saturday to accommodate both games at that location.
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