What is inverted smoke? And why do I care?

January 27, 2017
By Marcy Shortuse

On Wednesday I woke up to my son telling me the neighborhood was on fire.
I looked out the window and couldn’t see a thing, I just thought it was foggy. It wasn’t until the strong smell of smoke hit my nose when I opened the door that I began to be concerned.
I was keeping in mind that the day before there was a very large controlled burn near the Salt Flats, in Charlotte Harbor Preserve at the tip of Cape Haze Peninsula.
You might have seen it when you left the island that day around 5 p.m.
While our neighborhood was not on fire Wednesday morning, we were definitely getting the side effects from it; it was something called smoke inversion. Smoke inversion happens when there is smoke lingering in the air, and when warm air “caps” the cooler air. It causes the smoke to be trapped in low-lying areas, but it begins to lift when the sun starts to heat the earth back up.
So at 9 a.m. our yard looked like this: About 10 minutes later, the smoke was lifting rapidly and we were able to leave the house.
Please keep this in mind if you know there are smoke issues in any area off-island. There were lots of accidents, cars pulled off to the side of the road for almost an hour on Gasparilla Road and lots of scared kids headed to school.
One person said, “Imagine putting white paper on all of your windows, then trying to drive.”
It’s a pretty scary feeling to realize what it’s like to be inside a fire. If you ever hear of it happening again, DO NOT attempt to drive. Just pull over or go home, be safe.