Ironman Lake Tahoe and Ironman 70.3 Lake Tahoe were forced to cancel on Sunday September 21 due to unsafe air quality conditions in the Lake Tahoe basin in California. In a press release, organizers insisted that ‘the safety of athletes, volunteers, and spectators is our highest priority.’
The decision to cancel the event involved recommendations from the State of California and Placer County health officials. Officials advised Ironman that the high levels of PM2.5 (particulate matter) being recorded early on Sunday morning in Lake Tahoe were at unsafe and unhealthy levels for both the athletes and the public.
“Due to high early morning unhealthy concentrations of particulate matter in and around various areas of the Tahoe Basin where the Ironman event is occurring, we feel that the event management made the right decision today in the interest of the athletes, event volunteers, and spectators,” said Tom Christofk, Air Pollution Control Officer for Placer County.
“We have been monitoring the air quality impacts from the King Fire on the event for several days, and have been reviewing near real time data from sensors located in Squaw Valley, Tahoe City, Kings Beach, and Truckee. The data from this morning indicates unsafe levels of air quality to commence the event.”
Saturday’s initial projections from the King Fire had suggested that smoke and particulate matter would not impact the event on Sunday. However, fire behaviour and wind patterns changed significantly on Saturday afternoon with air quality at Squaw Valley, Truckee and Tahoe City deteriorating rapidly through the course of the evening.
Smoke models predicted little relief on Sunday, with smoke accumulation increasing as the day progressed, according to the anticipated shift to a south-westerly wind.
“This morning officials from Ironman, with tremendous data support from the Placer County Air Pollution Control District, made the decision to cancel the race,” said Robert Oldham, Placer County Public Health Officer.
“As much as we were all looking forward to this event, I am confident that the cancellation was the right decision to protect the health of the athletes and the public.”
Additional athlete communications will go out in the coming days.