Slightly better Bay Area air coaxes many to resume outdoor activities

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- Most of the Bay Area has been holed up inside for days because of toxic air quality. But there was a ray of hope and a breath of less toxic, fresh air for those who ventured out in the East Bay.

A St. Mary's College student finally got outside to snap some landscape photos but was disappointed by the ongoing lack of vibrant colors, Tuesday was just a lighter shade of gray.

LIVE: Track Bay Area air quality levels impacted by smoke

Nicole Kopp said unfortunately she was out of time, her assignment was due today.

She said, "I'm stuck with this, there's nothing I can do."

Many have been closely monitoring the air quality index.

Carla Den Dulk, a Walnut Creek resident, shared her benchmark. She said "If it's over 100 I won't leave the house. I won't go out. And today I was watching, watching, watching and today it was 102 so I put on my tennis shoes and flew out here."

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All of this smoke in the Bay Area is having an effect on our health so much so that one doctor says it's like smoking half a pack of cigarettes.

It was a breath of less toxic fresh air. Good enough for one older couple.'

Claudia Casey declared "It's still not clear but I'm breathing so it's still OK. It's sad it's gone to this point."

Normalcy was the goal for many cyclists and hikers and dog walkers at Lafayette reservoir.

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The Boundary Oak Golf Course in Walnut Creek reopened Tuesday morning after a four-day long shutdown due to poor air quality, a sign that outdoor life is returning to normalcy after a rough week of smoky air.

"It felt like a normal, lovely summer's day," said 86-year-old Dasha Zablocki of Concord after playing a round of golf.

Golf employees say the city shuts down the course if the Air Quality Index is above 170. Tuesday morning it was 163, so they re-opened.

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"I cannot remember that we have ever closed four days straight. Before this year I have never closed because of air quality," said General Manager Mike Ash.

He says tee times instantly booked up when they re-opened. He expects 260 golfers to play on Tuesday.

As the morning progressed, the air quality improved.

"It's better and I heard it was at the level where it was OK for us to possibly play and that's why I did," Zablocki said.

LIVE: Track Bay Area air quality levels impacted by smoke

Walnut Creek resident Bob Britt took his dog Benji out for a long walk Tuesday morning after limiting his time outdoors over the past few days because of the smoke.

"The past few days we have really cut back because it's probably not good for him to be out in this air and not good for me! I am over 65," Britt said.

Tuesday's air quality is still considered unhealthy for at risk groups. But when you compare it to what the sky looked like a week ago, it's all relative.

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The apocalyptic orange skies in the Bay Area on Wednesday were pretty unexpected, even though we have been experiencing smoky skies for weeks. Check out this before-and-after video captured by DRONEVIEW7, which shows the shocking difference.

For a week Mount Diablo, even the foothills were obliterated by smoke. You couldn't see them so the fact that you could make out the outline now was encouraging to many.

"Today you can see the outline of Mount Diablo again, which is an encouraging sign. And I looked at the AQI and it's better today. It's just nice to get out and he's loving every second of it," Britt said, looking down at an energetic Benji.

People we talked to were especially looking forward to the rest of the week, with hopes that air quality will improve each day.

So it's a new normal -- people and pets cautiously, gradually coming out of hiding -- more grateful than ever to be back outdoors.

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