Smoke and haze from wildfires in north Florida have permeated much of the Tampa Bay area, provoking scores of calls to authorities throughout the region.
Not to fear. The fires are very far away.
The smoky conditions are a good reminder that the state is approaching the busiest time of the year for wildfires, and that conditions are ripe for an extremely active season.
More than a dozen fires burning in north Florida, including a 25,000-acre fire at the Georgia-Florida border, are mixing in the atmosphere and being blown into our area by northerly winds.
"It has nothing to do with our district," said Kristin Bennett, a duty officer Florida Forest Service. The winds are "pushing it our way."
That hasn't kept residents from calling and police scanners from buzzing with calls about the hazy conditions.
The haze and acrid smell are expected to ease Thursday afternoon when sea breezes mix with the northerly flow, according to the National Weather Service.
Tampa Bay is in the midst of an extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Rainfall so far this year has been below average while the region has seen record-setting temperatures.
Conditions, including low humidity and winds in the 10 to 15 mph range, are favorable across most of Tampa Bay for the spread of wildfires, according to the National Weather Service.
The agency issued a red flag warning from noon Thursday until 8 p.m. for Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties, among others in the area.