UPDATE: Cherokee County, NC downgraded to Code Orange air quality
Smoke from wildfires has put Cherokee County, North Carolina in one of the worst air quality categories.
UPDATE: Cherokee County in North Carolina has been downgraded to Code Orange after being at Code Purple, one of the worst air quality categories, most of the day Tuesday.
PREVIOUS STORY: Smoke from wildfires has put Cherokee County, North Carolina in one of the worst air quality categories. The area is under Code Purple, which means the air is very unhealthy.
The skies are clearing in Murphy, but some areas are worse than others from the smoke.
A shroud of smoke makes the mountains tough to see. School playgrounds are empty.
Local hardware stores and the health department are running through boxes of N95 masks.
"I'm just being prepared," Sara Posey, a Cherokee County, North Carolina resident said.
Sara Posey started carrying around this mask with her. She bought a box of them for her family when she learned air quality conditions were getting worse.
Right now, they're just above the hazardous category.
"It should concern everybody. Just taking precautions. I mean I'm not freaking out," Posey said.
Hundreds of people have stopped by the Cherokee County health department since the weekend to pick up masks. Health officials gave out 300 on Saturday alone.
"It just shows that people are somewhat nervous. They're uncertain. This is the first time an event like this has happened in our community with significant wildfires," David Badger, Cherokee County Health Department Director said.
Badger said they're continuing to stock up since the air quality is so poor right now.
"It affects anybody. People that do have to be outside or have some of those pre-existing conditions are impacted more severely than people that might not have some of those conditions, but if you exert yourself, then it could impact you," Badger said.
Much of the smoke people are seeing is from wildfires in nearby counties in North Carolina and Georgia. It's forced some people to change their routine.
"Wearing a mask and staying inside pretty much," Andrew Mintz, another Cherokee County, North Carolina resident said.
Andrew Mintz has asthma, which makes breathing difficult in these conditions. When he has to work outside as a carpenter, he makes sure to wear his mask.
"I bought it just to be able to breathe and not breathe in all that bad stuff," Mintz said.
While health officials admit the mask will protect you only so much, people are starting to get used to living with smoke in the air.
"We're going to survive. It's just you don't want to get sick," Posey said.
Air quality division officials said they haven't seen as much widespread smoke in the area as they have in the last few days. That means the county could be out of the very unhealthy category on Wednesday.