Saturday, August 5, 2017

Western Washingtonians can breathe again. For now

YESSS! Most of western Washington is in the Green for the first time in days. A light on-shore wind brought dramatic improvements to our air on Friday evening. A few areas north of Seattle are still not all the way down to Good air, though they're headed in the right direction. For now.

Sadly most of eastern Washington had the very opposite experience: some communities even reached Hazardous levels as stronger north winds blew even more smoke down from Canada. The Methow valley also got hit by smoke from the Diamond Creek fire simultaneously.

Here's how air quality levels changed at a representative smattering of sites across the state. Darker colors = poorer air. Says it all.

Forecast: somewhat uncertain and I'm leaning toward cautious optimism for western WA. First few frames the visible satellite images this morning show the smoke monster looming overhead, ready to blanket western WA with a thin layer of smoke smoke again. Models are not mixing a lot of this smoke to the surface, meaning folks in the lowlands might continue to see pretty sunsets and have maximum temperatures slightly cooler than forecast, without having to breathe the smoke. But there are reasons to be a little less optimistic, especially north of Seattle where a fire near Darrington and another south of Bellingham are adding smoke to the airshed. Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups is a safe bet, with Good to Moderate for the South Sound and southwest WA. Winds will die down causing smoke to linger between now and Monday.

Eastern WA: wish I had better news but the best most communities could hope for is around Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups over the next few days. Many communities have Very Unhealthy air right now and the health precautions cannot be over-stressed. Minimize outdoor exposure, run car and home air conditioners in recirculate mode, wear N95 masks if needed, stay hydrated and consult your physician for personalized health advice.

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