ATLANTA – Thick haze and the smell of burning wood hung over the city Tuesday morning as the wind blew in smoke from massive wildfires along the Georgia-Florida line.
There is no rain in Atlanta's forecast for at least another week, but the wind should shift direction, with fresher air coming in off the Atlantic Ocean by evening, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Beasley said.
In the meantime, the haze lowered visibility in the Atlanta area to three to five miles, and people with respiratory problems were being urged to stay inside.
Last week, when haze from the fires in the Okefenokee Swamp first drifted into the metro area, 911 dispatchers in metro Atlanta received dozens of calls from residents who smelled the smoky odor and thought a fire had broken out in a neighbor's home. On Tuesday, even workers inside downtown buildings could smell the smoke.
The wildfires have blackened more than 600 square miles of dried-out forest and swampland in drought-stricken southeastern Georgia and northern Florida. Commercial timber losses are estimated to be at least $30 million.
A fire information task force monitoring the blazes for the states reported 52 fires burning on more than 345,000 acres in Georgia.
The first giant fire in southeast Georgia started April 16 when a tree fell onto a power line near Waycross, about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta. A second blaze was started by lightning in the Okefenokee Swamp on May 5 and spread into Florida.