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What’s going on with skies hazy skies in Southwest Colorado?

Health department says smoke, Weather Service says clouds
Todd Swanson climbs the Sky Steps with hazy skies as a backdrop Friday morning. Weather observers and public lands officials gave differing reasons for the haze.

There was a bit of a mystery Friday about what was causing the hazy skies across Southwest Colorado.

San Juan Basin Public Health posted to social media that the skies were filled with smoke from wildfires, both in and out of state.

“While there is not an air quality advisory in place, local sensors are reporting moderate air quality,” the health department posted.

But Dan Cuevas with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction said the haze is just high clouds associated with a weather disturbance that’s mostly affecting the eastern side of the Continental Divide.

“For us, we’re just getting high clouds out of it,” he said.

Smoke-filled skies obscured the mountains Friday outside Durango city limits.

Cuevas said there’s nothing showing in weather models that smoke is impacting Southwest Colorado.

“Unless there’s something going on we don’t know about ... we’re going to stick to our guns and just say high clouds,” he said.

Claire Ninde, spokeswoman for SJBPH, said a fire and smoke map tracker showed the region covered Friday morning.

“I am baffled,” she said. “Because this morning when I looked at the fire and smoke map, we were completely covered ... although it was hard to tell where it was coming from ... and now all of that has shifted to our east.”

Ninde said the health department consulted with the U.S. Forest Service, which said the skies are obscured because of a combination of smoke and haze.

“There’s very little information I can find on this,” she said.


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