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.

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