Written by Scott Nelson, Director, Wakulla County Emergency Management Thursday, 12 April 2012 15:11
THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY Emergency Management Team Situation Report
Issued 4/12/12 11:30AM
Incident: Wildfire Smoke
A change in the winds is coming over the next 24 hours that will bring smoke from the large “County Line” wildfire to the region. The County Line fire has grown to over 35,000 acres in the Osceola National Forest in northern Baker County, near the Georgia state line. This fire has been producing very heavy smoke for hundreds of miles downwind of the fire. We got our first taste of it last Saturday morning, but the prevailing winds have kept the plume over areas near Gainesville to Jacksonville for the past week.
Winds will begin to shift from the East tonight, bringing the plume closer to our region. The attached document covers the National Weather Service’s estimates through midnight tonight. An update will be provided later, but it is anticipated to move in tonight after midnight, continue FRIDAY morning through Sunday.
Coincidentally, this is Wildfire Awareness Week and FSU ALERT has been featuring various topics on its Facebook Page and Twitter feed all week long. Smoke from a wildfire, even 100 miles away as this one is, can cause a number of issues:
1.) HEALTH CONCERNS:
Wildfire smoke can affect many people in different ways. Most vulnerable are those individuals with pre-existing medical conditions that compromise their ability to breathe, such as asthma or COPD. Even healthy individuals can experience coughing, scratchy throat, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, stinging eyes, and runny nose.
The CDC and numerous other health agencies recommend that individuals avoid exposure to wildfire smoke as much as possible. The best choice is to stay indoors. If you must go outside, minimize you time outside, avoid strenuous activity, and if you begin to experience symptoms immediately go back inside.
For more information, please visit: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/wildfires/facts.asp
2.) POOR VISIBILITY & HAZARDOUS DRIVING:
Flashback to January 9, 2008. Smoke from a wildfire along Interstate 4 in Polk County combined with the night time fog to create absolute zero visibility on the highway. 70 vehicles pile up on each other, killing 4 and injuring 38 others. http://youtu.be/y9aqU2S6qns
A rare event? Think again. This past January 29, 2012, another pileup involving over a dozen vehicles killed 10 and injured 18 others due to wildfire smoke on I-75 near Gainesville. Two FSU students were involved in this one. http://youtu.be/EPItS2u_eaA
Smoke from wildland fires, even those over 100 miles away, can significantly and suddenly reduce visibility on a roadway, especially at night. Smoke can combine with naturally occurring fog to create a “superfog”.
What can you do?
1.) Try to avoid roadways near active wildland fires. Call 511 or visit http://www.fl511.com/ and FHP's website, http://www.flhsmv.gov/fhp/traffic/, before traveling. Some roadways may be closed and detours may be in effect.
2.) Drive with lights on low beam. High beams will only be reflected back off the smoke and compromise your visibility even more.
3.) Reduce your speed -- and watch your speedometer. Smoke, like fog, creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding.
4.) Allow plenty of space between you and the car in front of you to be able to stop suddenly.
5.) Listen for traffic you cannot see. Open your window a little, to hear better.
6.) Use wipers and defrosters as necessary for maximum visibility.
7.) Use the right edge of the road or painted road markings as a guide.
8.) Be patient and courteous. Do not pass lines of traffic. Allow extra time to reach your destination.
9.) If conditions are bad, turn on your hazard lights (4-way flashers) and consider getting off at the next available exit.
10.) If you simply cannot go any further, safely pull completely off the roadway. Be careful, others may have the same idea and already be in that space. Call *FHP to report conditions.
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