On Thursday (July 22), the air quality was so hazy that a Code Orange alert was issued for most of the state, an alert which an official with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality described as "rare," according to WRAL. The last Code Orange linked to "fine particulate matter" was in 2017.
A Code Orange alert means that the smoke in the air could cause issues or be unhealthy for people with existing conditions or are members of sensitive groups. This could include young children, older adults, and people with heart and/or lung disease. People are also encouraged to limit the time they spend outside and to avoid exercising outdoors. The air quality could cause wheezing, coughing or sneezing.
"The air quality right now is smoky," said state meteorologist Elliot Tardif. "You can smell it and see the haze. This type of thing doesn't happen here often."
Smoke from wildfires along the western half of the U.S. and parts of Canada has been making its way to areas across the country via the jetstream. As of Thursday, there are 80 large wildfires in several states, with the biggest being the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, which is only 30% contained and has already burned more 350,000 acres, per WRAL.