Wind, smoke cause air quality concern in Sedgwick County

All of the wind and blowing dust and smoke from wildfires is causing air quality issues in Sedgwick County.
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 7:49 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - All the wind and smoke from Wednesday’s storms that blew across Kansas caused air quality issues. In Sedgwick County, Thursday brought a return to blue skies with cooler and much calmer weather. Still, the impact from Wednesday’s storms lingered with some of the dust still in the air.

Remnants from wildfires that spread across parts of western and north central Kansas were splattered on cars across Wichita.

“We had a big push of wind [Wednesday] that kind of drove that smoke into town,” Storm Team 12 meteorologist Cassie Wilson explained. “In the next 24 hours, we don’t really have any big pushes of wind. We’re breathing in that smoke, that dust, and it’s definitely sticking around because the wind has calmed down.”

Air quality in Wichita worsened at about 4 p.m. Wednesday and peaked at about 9 p.m. The Air Quality Index reached 802, a level that is considered hazardous to breathe.

Graph showing the regression of Wichita's air quality from Wednesday's powerful winds.
Graph showing the regression of Wichita's air quality from Wednesday's powerful winds.(KWCH)

Air quality continued to improve Thursday, but the City of Wichita shared a message of caution, especially people in sensitive groups.

“(The) elderly (and) young children definitely need to be mindful because while you may not always see some of those small smoke particles, you can smell it. “We’re seeing it with the dust, which is a little bit of a bigger particle. But that concern definitely still holds,” said Dr. Josh Davis with Ascension Via Christi’s emergency department.

Emergency room doctors have seen people with wind-related injuries from accidents, as well as patients suffering from lung issues with so much smoke and dust in the air.

“This can really flare that up. One of the things particularly this year that we’re worrying about with air quality issues and the symptoms that go along with it, kind of trouble breathing and cough and running nose, (is) mistaking that or confusing that with COVID,” Dr. Davis said.

When air quality reaches unhealthy levels, doctors advise staying informed and being cautious outdoors.

“Avoiding or postponing outdoor activities whenever you’re able to do that. That’s really the number one thing that you can do,” Dr. Davis said.

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