Wednesday, August 14, 2019

No Smoke on the Horizon

The Williams Flats fire activity is low, with some minimal creeping and smoldering.  Firefighters estimate that it should be completely contained by this Friday. 

The NWCC Morning Brief states that holdover fires continue to be discovered in Washington/Oregon but they are exhibiting low fire behavior with minimal spread potential. No new large fires have been reported and forecast fire danger is mostly low to moderate.  However, there is still potential for brush fires in southeastern Washington.  Expect continued Good air quality across most of the state for the foreseeable future, with some occasional Moderate blips in select locations.

The weather forecast for the next few days shows dry and normal temperatures, with some marine layer clouds expected in western Washington.  Moderate winds are expected through the Cascade gaps during the afternoons for the next few days.  Widespread cloudy skies are expected this weekend, with continued northwesterly flow off the coast pushing clouds over eastern Washington.  Don't expect much precipitation, but a few showers are possible on Friday and Saturday.

No images of smoke to share (that's a good thing), but the GOES-West imagery showed some interesting cloud structures travelling across WA/OR border this morning:

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Dicey smoke forecast for north-eastern quadrant of the state, mostly OK elsewhere

As explained in the earlier forecast, air quality in the Spokane area hovered around Unhealthy levels overnight, with some relief during the afternoons. Here's the satellite picture from Wednesday afternoon.

Smoke from the Williams Flats fire continues to be a problem around the far eastern part of the Colville reservation and Spokane County. The Devoe Creek fire close to Stehekin and the Eagle Bluff fire along the Okanogan River valley in British Columbia are also sending smoke into north central WA and the Columbia Basin.

Another day of high temperatures on tap for most of eastern WA but a rather turbulent transition period over the next 2 days makes forecasting tough. A front approaches tonight, increases winds and thunderstorm risks, swirls the smoke around and then dumps some rain on the area. Smoke models are not showing huge improvements in air quality before Saturday evening and the wildcard is smoke from possible new fires.

It's not all bleak. Higher humidities, lower temperatures and some rain will help curtail fire spread, not to mention provide some relief from the searing heat. Here's what the UW-WRF model shows for 72-hr total precipitation totals by Sunday morning. Hitting all the right places, it seems:

So while its hard to pinpoint specific places and times for smoke impacts, the best advice we can offer folks in the northeastern quadrant of the state is to prepare for Unhealthy air close to fires, and Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups elsewhere. 

Good news for western WA: a strong marine push has ventilated out most of western WA and clouds are likely to hang around today (sorry summer aficionados 😧), alleviating smoke concerns for a while... provided potential thunderstorms today & tomorrow dont spark off new fires.

In other news
  • The Dept of Ecology and the US Forest Service have installed temporary air quality monitors in Cle Elum and Stehekin respectively, to track smoke impacts there. Data can be viewed on the map above. 
  • Tri Cities ozone is likely to stay just below the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups threshold today, as a wind-shift in the afternoon puts the brakes on ozone-formation. Timing of the winds are key; a delay of a few hours could push the area into USG air.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Spokane area smoke:
In the Spokane area, downwind of the Williams Flats fire on the Colville Reservation, smoke levels have been hovering in the Unhealthy-for-Sensitive-Groups to Unhealthy-for-everyone range for the couple of days.  Currently there is heavier smoke in the Green Bluff - Mount Spokane area.  For a lot of folks - mainly the elderly, children and anyone with heart or lung disease, this poses a health concern. Over 40% of the population falls into the Sensitive Groups category.  So even if you don’t mind the smoke, understand a lot of people are likely being affected. The longer air quality stays bad like this, the more people can be bothered. When the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups, people with heart or lung disease, children, people over 65, and pregnant women should limit outdoor exertion, and when the air quality gets worse than that, everyone should limit outdoor exertion. Anyone experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease from smoke exposure should contact their health care provider. Visit WDOH’s Smoke from Fires for more on steps to reduce your exposure to smoke.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Eastern WA smoke pummeling the funneling point (Spokane) until Thursday

Eastern WA air quality and forecast
Spokane is the meeting point for smoke from eastern WA fires exiting the state. Several area monitors recorded Unhealthy air for some hours overnight. Here's what the satellite picture looked like just before sunset.

After dragging some smoke into the Columbia Basin this morning, winds will redirect it all at Spokane overnight today. Expect areas to reach Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups and Unhealthy at various times of the day Tuesday & Wednesday. In general, worse air at night and some relief during the afternoons. The National Weather Service in Spokane issued an Air Quality Alert to cover this situation.

Winds pick up late Friday but fire weather concerns also creep in by Saturday. Stay tuned.

Western WA
Light smoke from distant sources will add a wee bit of fine particle pollution to the urban mix, leading to a few Moderate hours in the Seattle area through about Wednesday evening. Barring impacts from localized fires, expect mostly Good air.

Ozone is not released directly by sources but is formed when certain gases react together under the right weather conditions. Downwind of the Seattle- Tacoma metro area, ozone levels were Moderate yesterday and are expected to touch USG this evening. Kennewick might also see some Moderate levels Tuesday & perhaps Wednesday. More info on reducing ozone levels and protecting yourself can be found here.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

8/4/2019 Here, there, and everywhere

There's a little smoke in the air throughout much of the state from a general mass that's floating in the atmosphere above us. A little smoke from Alaska, a little from Canada, and according to NASA scientists, much of the diffuse haze we're seeing throughout the state is traveling to us all the way from the huge fires burning in Russa.  More details at the link:

Outlines of smoke visible from satellite.
Closer to home we're also seeing air quality impacts in the eastern part of the state where areas downwind of the rapidly growing Williams Flats fire on the Colville Reservation are seeing smoke in the Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range this morning. Dispersion models indicate that smoke will move to the south and into the Columbia basin throughout the day which may lighten impacts in the Spokane area but cause smoke in Ritzville, Moses Lake and Kennewick before moving back toward the east toward Spokane again tomorrow. Williams Flats is reported as a grass fire. Grass fires can grow very rapidly but are often of short duration. Let's hope this one is brought under control in just a few days. There is also a new fire in the Idaho panhandle that is worth watching.

Williams Flats fire

Air quality downwind of Williams Flats fire (as of 8am Sunday)

Current Large Fires in Washington.
Williams Flats.  5 mi SE of Keller, WA . Start 8/2. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 10,438 acres (+4,798). 0% containment. Active fire behavior. Grass. Structures and wildlife habitat threatened. Road and area closures.
Devore Creek. 3 mi SW of Stehekin, WA. Start 7/26. Confine/Point Zone Protection. Cause: Lightning. 180 (+0) acres. 0% containment. Moderate fire behavior. Timber. Trail closures.
Left Hand. 17 mi NW of Naches, WA. Start 7/23. Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 3,406 (+0) acres. 85% containment. Minimal fire behavior. Timber. Structures Threatened. Road and Area closures. Evacuation notifications.
Kusshi Creek. 37 mi S of Yakima, WA. Start 7/24. Confine/Full Suppression. Cause: Lightning. 953 (+0) acres. 90% containment. Minimal fire behavior. Timber.
Sulphur.  6 mi SE of Connell, WA. Start 8/2. Full Suppression. Cause: Unknown. 1,050 acres (+50. 100% containment. Minimal fire behavior. Last report on morning briefing unless significant activity occurs.