Poor air quality leads to event cancellations in Edmonton area

Poor air quality due to smoke from B.C. wildfires is expected to improve Sunday, so Edmonton Marathon organizers say the race will continue as planned.

Edmonton marathon will go ahead Sunday and Eskimos will play Saturday night

Smoke hung thick over the city Saturday morning. (Melanie Morin/CBC)

Poor air quality due to smoke from B.C. wildfires has led to the cancellation of numerous events Saturday in the Edmonton area, but the Edmonton Marathon and Eskimos game will go ahead as scheduled.

Smoke was thick in the Edmonton area Saturday afternoon, with the Air Quality Health Index measuring 10+ in the morning — the highest possible rating. Environment Canada recommends limiting outdoor activities and strenuous activity when the air quality is this poor.

By late Saturday afternoon, air quality improved to level four and by evening, it was down to three — a level considered low risk to health. 

Marathon organizers say this "moderate risk" level is low enough to continue with the marathon as scheduled on Sunday.

"Participants know how to manage their race experience to minimize their health risks. It is the individual's responsibility to choose participation and or a distance that reflects their abilities and health factors," organizers said in a statement.

Race participants who believe the air quality still poses too much of a health risk can run a shorter distance at no charge by visiting the race kit pick-up area in the Shaw Conference Centre.

The ABC Kids race scheduled for Saturday has been rescheduled to Sunday due to air quality concerns and to coincide with the main race event, however. The short-distance run is now scheduled for 10:45 a.m. and kids will run down Jasper Avenue.

Another update on the marathon will be issued Saturday at 5 p.m.

Running Room founder John Stanton said air quality has posed a challenge for the marathon this year, but was encouraged to see it improving Saturday afternoon.

"When I was out here earlier this morning, you could barely see across the river valley," he said.

Stanton said organizers want to be respectful of the time and effort put in by runners to prepare for the event, but wants to remind participants to take care of themselves.

When I was out here earlier this morning, you could barely see across the river valley.- John Stanton

"We've talked to them a great deal, said today may not the the day to run a personal best," he said. "Go out there, run and enjoy it, but do it so you keep your intensity level down a bit, find the duration that works for you."

Runner Vicki Dufner flew in from Minnesota for the race, hoping to get a personal best on Sunday.

She's going to play it by ear.

"My thought is if it's like it is today tomorrow, I won't race it the way that I normally had planned, I will definitely slow down," she said. 

"If the weather's good and the smoke clears, I will definitely do my best and race my hardest."

Runner Vicki Dufner planned on getting a personal best time in the full marathon on Sunday. But if the smoke remains heavy, she'll take it easy. (CBC/Nathan Gross)

Area events cancelled, postponed due to poor air quality

The Edmonton Eskimos announced Saturday that the home game against the Montreal Alouettes will go ahead at 7 p.m. In a statement, the team said the air quality is expected to be at an "acceptable" level by kick-off time.

Another event set to continue despite hazy skies this weekend is the Edmonton Airshow at the Villeneuve Airport. A spokesperson for the event said in a statement there are "blue skies" at the airport.

The Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival postponed races Saturday morning at Telford Lake in Leduc because of dense smoke over the water.

Skies cleared later in the morning and races will resume at 1 p.m., festival spokeswoman Nikki Van Dusen said. Races remain scheduled for the rest of the day and Sunday, and Van Dusen said she is confident those will not be interrupted.

The Central Alberta Yogathon held in Red Deer on Saturday was also cancelled due to poor air quality.

The outdoor event to raise money for the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre will be rescheduled for Sept. 15, organizer Erin Payne said.

Up to 100 people were expected to participate Saturday, she said.

"We do a specific type of breath in yoga, and doing that breath and breathing in the air just isn't a good idea, so we pulled the pin," Payne said.

"You just kind of have to do what you have to do and move on."

Smoke drifting across the Prairies

Smoke from B.C. wildfires has wafted east across the Prairies, putting the entire province of Alberta as well as Saskatchewan, Manitoba and parts of Ontario under air quality advisories.

Almost all of B.C. is also included in the special air quality advisories.

The forecast for Edmonton this weekend is mainly sunny Saturday with a high of 21 C and a low of 10 C, and will remain smoky throughout the day. The air quality level should improve by Saturday night, dropping to a level six.

Sunday will be a high of 21 C and sunny, with smoke lingering. The air quality level is expected to improve to a level four. 

Downtown was shrouded in haze Saturday, but air quality is expected to improve Sunday. (CBC/Nathan Gross)