Thick Smoke Chokes Atlanta


Thick smoke settled over Atlanta Tuesday morning causing eyes to water and traffic to slow down.

Winds from the southeast carried smoke from wildfires burning in South Georgia and North Florida.

Residents north of Atlanta -- in Woodstock -- also complained of smoky air.

The smoke appeared almost like a London fog.

"The winds are very light, trapping everything over the area," said Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton.

Drivers complained of scratchy throats caused by the gray pall.

There is a code orange air quality warning in effect for the area. That means the air could be unhealthy for sensitive groups.

National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Beasley says the smoke from the big wildfire in the Okefenokee Swamp began showing up in Thomaston in Upson County, about 50 miles south of Atlanta, between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. Smoke also is affecting Columbus in west Georgia.

Beasley says the smoke is lowering visibility to three to five miles.

He advises people with respiratory problems to stay inside.

Beasley says the wind should swing to the east later today and pick up speed -- clearing the smoke out of the metro area. He says a backdoor front moving through the area tomorrow should bring fresher air off the Atlantic and from the Carolinas.

As Beasley puts it, "This morning should be the worst of it" as far as the smoke goes.

The service issued a statement urging motorists to use low-beam headlights when driving through the haze and for people with respiratory problems to remain indoors.

The forecast calls for no rain for the next seven days. Beasley says an exception may be the mountain in extreme northeast Georgia, which may see a few thundershowers Wednesday.