Super fog and super help

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, August 18, 2011

Many people around the area will have learned a new weather term this morning: “super fog.” Super fog is a deceptively named condition that has more to do with fire than with fog. And it’s a condition that folks in the area might have to get used to as firefighters continue to work to douse a vast fire in the Great Dismal Swamp.

According to the National Safety Commission, super fog occurs when humidity in the air forms tiny droplets around each speck of ash produced by a fire. As the droplets accumulate, the smoke turns into a combination of smoke and fog creating a super fog that can form as an almost solid wall with visibility reduced to near zero.

That’s the situation drivers along Route 58 faced on Thursday, and it’s the situation that is expected this morning along Route 58 and I-664. It’s the condition that contributed to several accidents Thursday, and it’s likely to do so again this morning.


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Which is all a complicated way of saying that the smoke from this 6,000-acre fire has become something of a force of nature. It’s something that the average person must take into account as he makes plans for the day and the weekend. It shuts down events and sends people scurrying for the safety of home, only to find the next morning that it has crept inside their walls during the night.

And as bad as the smoke is to those of us who live in Suffolk and the surrounding area, we should never forget that there are more than 400 men and women working right now to extinguish the fire who toil in the midst of the thickest smoke day in and day out. And some of them have been doing so now for two weeks.

Officials have said that they need six inches or so of soaking rain to put the fire out, as it has moved into the six-foot-deep peat layer. There’s little hope for that type of storm in the immediate future, so area residents should brace themselves for the long haul.

If you happen to see any of these visiting firefighters, be sure to thank them for their help. And take it easy on the roads, especially in areas where smoke has reduced visibility.