Marathon, Eskimos game in limbo as smoky haze lingers over Edmonton

Organizers of the Edmonton Marathon will decide at 10 a.m. Saturday whether the race will go ahead as smoke from wildfires burning in B.C. continues to envelope Alberta.

“We’re pretty confident things are going to clear out,” John Stanton, marathon organizer and founder of the Running Room, said Friday.

A statement issued by Environment Canada just before 4 p.m. Friday said the air quality in the Edmonton area is expected to improve from north to south on Saturday afternoon and evening.

The air quality in the Alberta capital deteriorated Friday afternoon, sitting at level nine as of 3 p.m.. The rating is forecast to increase to 10-plus —​ the highest possible rating —​ later Friday before dropping down to rating of five on Saturday.

Environment Canada‘s special weather advisories look ahead to the next 18 hours meaning it’s too early for a forecast for the marathon, which starts at 7 a.m. Sunday, said Stanton.

“We’re going to make our final decision at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning but it looks like things will be a go,” Stanton said.

“There are some winds and a slight chance of rain, which would be terrific if we could get that over the evening,” he added.

Eskimos continue to plan for Saturday kickoff

The Edmonton Eskimos football team is scheduled to play the Montreal Alouettes at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night.

The team and Canadian Football League officials are monitoring the weather as they determine if that game will go ahead, said a statement issued by the team Friday.

As with the marathon, the statement from the team noted that the forecast for cooler temperatures “has prompted us to be cautiously optimistic.” 

The team is continuing to prepare for a kickoff at 7 p.m. and will provide another update at noon Saturday.

Video captured along highways near Valleyview, Alta. shows dark skies in the afternoon of Aug. 17. 0:27

Hospital emergency departments in Edmonton and Calgary have not seen a marked increase in the number of people with respiratory concerns, said Dr. Jasmine Hasselback, Edmonton zone medical officer of health with Alberta Health Services.

“Those communities are quite large and we’re able to detect a signal more notably so I think it’s important to emphasize that — even in the big cities — we’re not seeing a big increase,” Hasselback said Friday.

The number of people contacting Health Link, the provincewide health information hotline, has increased, she said.

People are calling with concerns about a cough, scratchy throat and sore eyes, she said. 

“Very few of them are being directed to seek medical care, which is good news,” Hasselback said.

This image was taken at 2:25 p.m. Friday in Lac La Biche, 220 kilometers northeast of Edmonton. (Crystal Leavey)

The smoke coming into Alberta from B.C. became exceptionally thick mid-afternoon on Friday, with photos being shared on social media depicting almost complete darkness on highways in areas such as Valleyview and Slave Lake.

In Grande Prairie, the air quality index had gone past 10 by 3 p.m.

The smoke in that area is due to a large cluster of wildfires burning west of Prince George, B.C., said Alysa Pederson, an Environment Canada meteorologist.

“The flow is through Hinton, Grande Cache, blowing northeast,” Pederson said Friday. It looks like the system will move south overnight, heading in to Edmonton, she said.

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