Code Purple smoke alert issued

Published 3:51 pm Friday, August 12, 2011

COURTLAND—Smoke from the Great Dismal Swamp fire created a Code Purple situation Friday, which is the worst of air-quality levels, according to Dan Salkovitz, a meteorologist with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“Tomorrow will be worse,” said Mike Rusnak, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield. “The wind direction will shift and will probably spread the entire smoke plume over most of eastern Virginia.”

At Code Purple levels, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid all outdoor strenuous activities, Salkovitz said.

“Everyone else should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities,” he added.

Triggered by lightning on Aug. 4, the wildfire at the Great Dismal Swamp had grown to nearly 6,000 acres as of Friday. Crews from around the country are being brought in to help fight the fire.

Although it was smoky at the Franklin-Southampton County Fair in Courtland on Friday, the show will go on.

“We are in full gear and everything is just fine,” said Barbette Porter, a member of the fair’s board of directors. “Once you’re out here for 30 minutes or so, you get really used to it. It’s not bad.”

Saturday’s Franklin African-American Festival at Barrett’s Landing may be moved indoors, said Frank Davis, director of Franklin Parks & Recreation.

“If it looks bad in the morning, I might move it in the Armory,” Davis said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Entertainment begins at 1 p.m. and lasts throughout the day.

The smoke will impact counties along Route 460 from Suffolk to Petersburg, according to Salkovitz. It’s also expected to travel toward Richmond along the Interstate 95 corridor.

A Sunday storm system will bring some relief.