Winds to shift, push wildfire smoke out of Metro Atlanta

The skies will clear in Metro Atlanta as shifting winds push wildfire smoke north. The clean air comes on additional good news: those on the front line of the state's largest wildfire believe it is close to burning itself out.

Thursday started in a code yellow air quality alert, an improvement from Wednesday's code red at daybreak. While smoke could continue to be an issue Thursday morning, by Thursday afternoon, taking a big breath should be less smoky in Metro Atlanta.

11Alive Meteorologist Chesley McNeil points to high pressure from a cold front moving into Georgia. Starting Thursday afternoon, winds will change to a southerly flow. That will push the plumes of smoke north, away from Metro Atlanta.

There's also progress in controlling the source of that smoke.

On Wednesday, officials told 11Alive's Doug Richards controlled burns at the edges of the Cohutta Wilderness were working.

"We do not expect the fire will raise up again and do anything more than creep along and burn some unburned pockets at this time," said Cheryl Chipman, a National Park Service spokeswoman flown in from California to help with the Cohutta fire.  "We have very good confidence the fire will just continue to do what it’s doing here, which is just smoke a little, smolder and eventually go out."

There's one area where good news remains absent: rain. That cold front coming in looks good now, but McNeil says it won't last.

"It looks promising, but as it gets closer, a lot of it will break up," he said.  "Maybe a rain drop or two will move in early, but that's really it."


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