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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Smoky Virginia beach

I'm just back from Virginia Beach where the smoky air made me flee even the gorgeous beach.

More than 4,000 acres of the Great Dismal Swamp on the North Carolina-Virginia border are burning. Because it's an underground fire of the peat that underlies the swamp, it's been hard to fight.

Since the prevailing winds this time of year are from the west/southwest, that takes the smoke over the Outer Banks and the Virginia shore most of the time. News accounts report that an outdoor worker as far away as baltimore reported smelling the smoke, which has an earthy not really unpleasant odor.

I was visiting my daughter in the shore community of Sandbridge, where the smoke obscured the sun, made my eyes water and made it impossible for a morning run along the beach. This is a community of huge vacation homes typically rented by families and groups of friends. The upcoming July Fourth weekend is prime time and every house is filled.

As is so often the case in areas where tourism is a big part of the economy, news accounts of the fire haven't been widespread. Although Northeast Ohioans love to vacation along this part of the Atlantic coast, we're more apt to hear about the California wildfires. The fires began June 9

"People come out of their houses and smell smoke so call the fire department," my daughter told me. "They're now telling people not to call them unless they see flames."

Those folks committed to their rentals months ago so tourismin Sandbridge isn't really being affected. But in downtown Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks people who hear of the swamp fire are making other plans.

The Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality has declared Code Orange days most of the past month. That means air quality is unhealthy and active children and adults, and people with heart and lung disease should think about staying indoors and rescheduling outdoor actitivities.

No one can predict when this fire will be put out. Some people have said it will probably take a hurricane to do the trick.
Others point to history and a 1923 Dismal Swamp fire they called the Great Conflagration.

It burned for three years.


Blogger Lola Smiles said...

argh. we are looking into booking a condo there in early august. maybe we'll go somewhere else instead - *groan*

July 5, 2008 at 11:45 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter says the smoke varies day by day. July Fourth was nice, she said, and then they got rain which helped dampen the fires Im guessing the rain theyll get from Hurricane Bertha, which will likely come close in the next week, will put out the fire. That will probably result in plenty of available condo rentals with owners/managers willing to make a deal to fill units which people have cancelled.

July 7, 2008 at 9:55 AM 

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