Sunday, August 17, 2014

Improving Air Quality in Keller

The Devil's Elbow fires were detected on August 3, 2014 on the Colville Indian Reservation in NE Washington and had likely been started by lightning the day prior.  Three fires in San Poil River Valley, approximately 10-12 miles north of the town of Keller, subsequently merged and became one, burning over 26,000 acres.  The Highway 21 corridor, running due south from the fires thought the town of Keller, was quickly impacted.  It became apparent that installing a smoke monitor in Keller was desirable, and the station was installed and became operational the morning of August 12 during a period of very dense smoke.

Due to the diurnal valley wind patterns (up-canyon during the day and down-canyon at night) Keller and the surrounding area typically experienced the worst air quality in the early morning hours (between midnight and 8 am as smoke would drain down the canyon during the cooler hours of the night.  Each afternoon would see clearing as winds shifted and came from the south.  As the recent rains moved in and fire crews gained the upper hand farther up the canyon, the morning smoke has decreased significantly.

While the 1-hr averages were quite high at times, the 24-hr average, upon which the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) levels are base) remained significantly lower due to the much cleaner air every afternoon. See the Smoke and Health tab at the top of this section for more detailed information on the WAQA levels and their meanings.

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