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Smoke from Georgia fires brings haze

By LOGAN NEILL
Published April 21, 2007


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If things seem a bit foggy lately, don't worry. There's nothing wrong with your eyes. Rather, the haze that has blanketed most of Hernando County and most of the rest of Central Florida is from a rash of wildfires burning over southeast Georgia.

According to the National Weather Service, smoke from the fires, which are spread over 45 square miles of forest near Waycross, Ga., is combining with low humidity and strong westerly winds to push the haze southward into north and Central Florida.

"It's very dry right now, and a low pressure center has put the smoke right on top of North and Central Florida," Tony Reynes, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Ruskin said Friday. "Unless there's a significant change in the pattern, it could be around for a while."

According to Reynes, the haze will likely to be worse this morning and evening hours when cooler air is drawn closer to the ground. As the atmosphere heats up, winds should help disperse the haze. As winds begin to shift to an easterly flow Sunday, the smoke should lessen.

Meanwhile, Hernando County Fire Rescue advised that the haze will likely make for reduced visibility on roadways, especially during early-morning and evening hours.

Although the NWS hasn't issued any official health advisories for the county, the Hernando County Health Department is advising residents with respiratory conditions to stay indoors with windows and doors closed.

"It's not good," Health Department environmental manager Al Gray said. "I would tell anyone with a respiratory condition who is susceptible to smoke to avoid any outdoor activity."

Meanwhile, the NWS continues to monitor the region as it remains under moderate drought conditions, issuing red flag warnings when conditions increase the risk for a wildfire.

Forecasters do not expect a significant chance for rain during the next 14 days.

Logan Neill can be reached at 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

[Last modified April 20, 2007, 21:15:24]


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