'Like Armageddon, it was terrible:' Residents, travelers avoiding Lake Tahoe due to wildfire smoke

J.R. Stone Image
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
'Like Armageddon': Travelers avoiding Lake Tahoe due to smoke
As communities in the Sierra suffer from the threat of fires and very bad air quality, some people are now traveling to the Bay Area for relief.

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KGO) -- Communities in the Sierra are suffering from not only the threat of fires, but very bad air quality. Some people are now traveling to the Bay Area for relief.

Others have cancelled would-be trips to Lake Tahoe to avoid the health hazards.

RELATED: Wildfire smoke triggers worst air quality in world in Tahoe

"It just looked like Armageddon, it was terrible," said winegrower Phil Wente. Wente is describing the smoky conditions he witnessed as he left Lake Tahoe Monday, making the decision to leave his family's vacation home a week early and head back to the Bay.

"Tried to do some outdoor activities and it was simply overwhelming, got to the point where even inside the house it looked like somebody had built a fire in the fireplace, closed the damper, and smoked out the house," says Wente.

And that thought was echoed by some like James Hada, who escaped Reno's dangerous smoky conditions and came to San Francisco.

VIDEO: Lake Tahoe surrounded by thick, apocalyptic layer of smoke from CA wildfires

Video shows the Lake Tahoe area submerged in a thick, apocalyptic layer of smoke as wildfire conditions close Highway 50 and force local resorts and beaches to shut down.

"When I left the AQI was like 350 or something, it was so smoky, it was burning my eyes," explained Hada.

Other visitors in San Francisco saw those unhealthy to hazardous smoke conditions, cancelled their Tahoe plans, and extended their stay in the city.

"At Lake Tahoe we're supposed to go like all over the lake, sightseeing, and then in the hotel there's an amazing pool but we couldn't go because of the smoke," says 11-year-old Sunidhi Ajmera.

Ajmera and her family are from Long Island, New York. They had planned to go to Lake Tahoe, then drop off her brother for his second year at Stanford University, but are now spending the week in San Francisco.

VIDEO: Smoke from CA wildfires brings ominous, orange skies to Bay Area

San Francisco Bay Area woke up to a murky sky as the region faces critical fire conditions.

Ajmera went on to say, "Then my dad said we could just stay here longer so I was like 'oh good!'"

While many are avoiding Tahoe and staying in the Bay Area, one tour guide in Fisherman's Wharf told us their trip to the Sierra is still happening this weekend and she bought sore throat lozenges for the out-of-towners, who opted not to cancel. Hopefully a soothing treat for what has been described as anything but comfortable.

"Monday late morning I went out by the lake and I looked around and I didn't see a living soul, I didn't see a boat on the lake. I have been going there my entire life over 60 years and I have never once felt the urge to leave as we were forced to do yesterday, it was so smoky, it was unbearable," says Wente.