WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — People in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia started blowing up social media Monday after they smelled something across the area, but couldn’t put their fingers on what it was.
DC Fire and EMS actually tweeted about it at 12:14 p.m. after it began receiving calls from people in the District that they could smell smoke. It didn’t take long for people in the DMV to respond to the tweet.
One person said the smell was noticeable in Tenleytown/Van Ness/Cleveland Park in the District. Similarly, someone tweeted that the odor was noticeable on Capitol Hill.
“I was getting out of my car at like 10:30 a.m. and it smelled like someone was burning something outside,” said Taylor Irwin. “I even went inside to my husband and was like ‘is something burning?'”
The responses weren’t limited to D.C. People shared that the smell was in parts of Maryland, including Rockville and Potomac.
“I walked outside and I smelled like the hazy kind of smoky smell,” said Nathan Swartwood. “Wasn’t sure what it was. Like I honestly looked at my phone, like looked up like wildfires maybe in the area. Didn’t see anything like that.”
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue tweeted that it had been receiving reports about the smell and a haze throughout Fairfax County. It said that the National Weather Service said a wind shift caused smoke from wildfires in North Carolina “to migrate widely.” FCFR added that low wind speeds in our area prevent the odor and haze from dispersing.
The National Weather Service Baltimore-Washington tweeted at 2:21 p.m.: “The smell may be associated with a wildfire in eastern NC. Southerly winds are bringing the smoke northward. Smoke should clear out from west to east this evening with the wind shifting to the northwest.”
The wildfire in Tyrell County, North Carolina has burned 5,200 acres. As of Monday night, 45% was contained.
DC News Now Meteorologist Damon Matson said people in the DMV smelled it because of winds coming out of the south and something called a temperature inversion.
“You get different parts of moisture, the clouds trapped closer to the ground, and what that’ll do is it’ll keep anything that’s near the surface right there, so if you get any sort of warmth, any sort of smoke or haze,” Matson said.
That smoke traveled more than 200 miles to parts of Virginia, Maryland and D.C.
“It’s kind of trapped with that inversion above us a couple thousand feet above so it’s confined so it’s not like it’s able to just like lift up and disperse and diffuse out,” said Brendon Rubin-Oster, lead meteorologist and fire weather program leader with the National Weather Service.
Rubin-Oster said the fire had a minor impact on the air quality index (AQI), in the D.C. area.
“The actual pollution is not hazardous to all. The AQI has been in the mid I think 70s, so it’s hazardous to basically the extremely sensitive populations,” Rubin-Oster said.
“With this today, I think we just got the smell. There wasn’t too much matter in the air to cause a problem,” Matson said.