Shift in winds likely to kill vog but not humidity
When it comes to high humidity or vog, the choice is clear: Sweating for a little longer is preferable.
Thanks to shifting winds, the vog might be gone by the weekend, but high humidity is expected to stick around for a while longer until the soothing tradewinds return, the National Weather Service said last night.
Still, the predicted shift is a bit of good news for asthma and allergy sufferers who have been affected by the volcanic haze coming from the Big Island in the past week.
The southeasterly winds blowing over Kilauea Volcano are expected to shift to a southwesterly to westerly direction, forecaster Jonathan Hoag said.
The vog -- sulfur dioxide gas emitted by the volcano that combines with other gases in the atmosphere to create volcanic smog -- was expected to stick around well into next week, but an advancing front could help clear the air over most islands starting this weekend. The vog might linger longest over Maui, Hoag said.
THE SHIFTING WINDS also could bring showers, with high humidity lingering for a while longer.
But temperatures "should be a little cooler," Hoag said, adding that humidity has been in the mid-80s to 90 percent over the past week.
The vog has not been good for many residents. Physicians like Dr. Jeffrey Kam, chief of the allergy clinic at Straub Clinic & Hospital in Honolulu, said, "It's absolutely nuts here. ... People are not happy right now."
The clinic averages 16 patients per day, but in the last two days it has seen up to 25 patients, and Kam said he is also advising many over the phone.
"We're maxed out; I'm missing my lunch lately," he said.
SINCE EARLY last week, people have been complaining of respiratory symptoms, worsening asthma conditions, more eye and ear infections, and even skin rashes from the heat, Kam said.
But spot checks of hospitals throughout the state revealed no unusual number of allergy/asthma sufferers. Kam said people seek their private physicians for help, not the emergency rooms.
Vog haze consists of small amounts of toxic metals that irritate the skin and tissues and mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat. These minute particles also can penetrate deep into the lungs and can lead to difficulty in breathing, headaches, watery eyes, sore throat and flulike symptoms.
HARD TO BREATHE
» Vog is formed when sulfur dioxide emitted from Kilauea Volcano reacts with sunlight, oxygen, dust particles and water in the air to form tiny droplets known as sulfate aerosols, sulfuric acid and other substances.
» Patients suffer from congestion, sniffling, itchy eyes and headaches.
» The American Lung Association advises people to stay indoors and contact their physicians if symptoms get more severe, and to wear a paper or gauze dust mask.
Source: American Lung Association