Saturday, September 12, 2020

Gasp! How much longer???

Quick answers: at least another day and a half in Western WA. 2-3 days in eastern WA.

Gradual clearing will commence on the WA coast on Sunday from west to east, and it will be Monday before that pushes across the state. For western WA, this means we're close to the peak of the episode, but much of eastern WA will deteriorate further today before it starts to get better. The size of the Oregon smoke plumes parked offshore is so "super-massive", and the fires themselves are very smoky, so smoke will continue to pour into the state for a while to come. And there are also several fires within WA to contend with.

We've received an overwhelming number of public queries on the blog from concerned citizens and kindly ask that folks don't take offense if we missed responding to you individually. 

Answers to most commonly raised questions

  • There are no pockets of clean air to retreat to this weekend. Your favorite campground or hiking trail isn't going to be magically shielded from smoke, no matter what the elevation (except perhaps subsurface caves... but I digress). Here's the latest satellite picture- that's all smoke over the state, very little clouds. See what I mean? 


  • Please use this forecast map to self- serve. Forecasts beyond two- three days are less certain
  • Resources to protect your health during these events can be found here. Best advice at this time is stay indoors. 


107 comments:

  1. Hi - the forecast page seems to be down. Any idea when it will be back up?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was just able to bring it up on the second try. Summary: tomorrow looks better than today for western WA.

      Delete
    2. It's not, it's worse today, stay safe til this site gives the ok

      Delete
  2. Raksha- its choking under the massive load of users. Please be patient, staff are working round hte clock to keep it going.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for you efforts! This is a great public service that you all provide.

      Delete
    2. Thank you! Sorry, one more question - it looks like the AQ at Mount Rainier currently is quite good. Is that correct? Or do the sensors there not pick up smoke?

      Delete
    3. Raksha: Only ozone is measured at Mount Rainier, not PM2.5 (aka smoke).

      Delete
    4. Thank you guys for your great work. Love you guys!

      Delete
  3. Thank you for your efforts! It's great to have this resource.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for giving me a chuckle or two while reading this. We all know its serious, though being able to laugh a bit helps.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes, the smoke forecast page is struggling. My first attempt resulted in an unavailable server, the second attempt was abandoned after 2 min of slowly loading to less than 50%, and the third attepmpt worked almost without pause. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our IT staff have been working flat out to keep this from choking under load. Thanks for your patience

      Delete
  6. Did anyone else notice that the smoke forecast map uses colors not shown in the legend? For example, does orange equal unhealthy for sensitive groups or moderate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I checked closely and am not seeing that. You can click on the map and it will give you a text popup showing the category. Orange = USG, red= unhealthy.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for checking. I figured out the issue. Browser dark mode was altering the colors rendered on the map and in the legend differently.

      Delete
  7. The eventual improvement is forecast to happen "west to east" but it appears that the Port Angeles area remains unhealthy while many other areas are forecast to be USG. Is that because of the wind direction and shadow effect of the Olympics?

    ReplyDelete
  8. An early fall heavy rain event, would sure be nice right about now.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm guessing if I drive to Montana the smoke is going to follow me by Monday?

    ReplyDelete
  10. People keep telling me they can't smell it and it doesn't look that bad, but that doesn't mean it's not dangerous, right? We can't just rely on our senses because the dangerous particles are invisible, right? I saw people golfing in it yesterday! What is wrong with people?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Correct, our message has been "if you can see it, you shouldnt be breathing it; but just because you cant see it doesnt mean it isnt there".

      Delete
    2. I’m pregnant and can DEFINITELY smell it. Like the moment I open my front door and step outside. Stay safe.

      Delete
  11. According to the EPA, the air quality in your home can be 2 to 5 times worse than outside. (Typically) does the same hold true during events like today's smoke?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It can, in poorly insulated buildings. Or if cooking/ smoking/ incense burning smoke accumulate.

      Delete
    2. No smoking, cooking, or incense here. Keeping a pot of simmering water with eucalyptus oil and baking soda going; I've been closed up for 48 hours, yet I still 'feel' like the stuff has gotten in. I'm considering wearing a decent mask inside (is that paranoia, &/or extreme?)

      Delete
  12. Nice work! Keep up the nice tone you give to this.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yes, what would we do without you! God bless you & your funny,Frank & sweet coverage!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why does NOAA's Air Quality Forecast of 1Hr Avg Surface Smoke show Seattle, Bellingham and Port Angeles as zero until 6 pm? Other monitors show it's bad out now, so I find it hard to believe it could measure zero soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes there are some deficiencies in that model and this might be one of them.

      Delete
  15. Yakima is covered full of smoke

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ranil, you are a rockstar. This has been such a great source of information over the last few days. Can you now make the smoke go away, please? :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Is Seattle expected to be a little better on Sunday during the day, compared to today?

    ReplyDelete
  18. This might be a stupid question.

    Will things be cleared up come Mid October? Coming from a Chicago and hoping most roads and locations are open.

    Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I certainly hope so! Even if fires arent all under control, the weather is a lot more active by then so smoke accumulation is rare.

      Delete
  19. This has been such a great resource. Thank you for your work and summaries!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Agreed - thank you for this valuable information. We are now depending on it.

    ReplyDelete
  21. What does the black color mean? This color isn't in the legend. Cle Elum's air quality currently shows a black triangle. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you. I really appreciate the info and also the kindness in the replies

    ReplyDelete
  23. We have relatives driving cross country with Bellingham being their destination. They should arrive next Wednesday. Is it safe to drive across the state right now? I’m guessing it depends what happens the next few days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Janine, there will be a lot less smoke closer to Wed. However, check for traffic alerts at https://www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts/

      Delete
  24. I'm just out of the city limits in La Center. I don't see it in any of the maps - is the AQ being checked for anywhere near me? Some webistes have La Cneter AQ at over 300 - and that can't be true, because it is not heavy anc thick here. I just want to have a better idea of what the real reading is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nearest official monitors at in Sauvie Island, OR and Yacolt, WA. SI has been running an AQI of just under 300, and Yacolt around 400.

      Delete
    2. Thank you. Oh boy. So there's no reading for my area at all. We are far from Yacolt and even further from Sauvie Island.
      It's weird though when you Google "Air Quality La Center, WA" it gives a reading, and it is assumed it is for our area, but it is misleading. Praying for relief before Monday.

      Delete
    3. There are some citizen scientist operated air sensors close to Salmon Creek and Battleground, and those are showing very similar values. When you google for AQ in a certain place, it either looks for the nearest monitor, or relies on a model than does some interpolating. You should get some relief my Monday, hang in there!

      Delete
  25. What does this smoke consist of? In other words the harmful elements?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wildfire smoke is a mixture of very small particles and gases. The fine particles, particulate patter 2.5 (particles measuring 2.5 microns in diameter) are the primary health concern. These particles are what can get into your eyes and lungs where they can cause health problems. For more info: https://www.airnow.gov/faqs/what-wildfire-smoke/#:~:text=Smoke%20is%20a%20complex%20mixture,exposures%20(hours%20to%20weeks).

      Delete
  26. I’m planning a backpacking trip in north cascades national park this week mon-thurs. Do you think this is a good idea?

    ReplyDelete
  27. The day the smoke rolled in we had 20mph north to south winds ( sustained) next day 10mph north to south. I'm near Everett
    Yet the news and you guys say the smoke came from the south? How is that possible if the winds were in the opposite direction?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Winds shifted. Thats when the smoke rolled in. Here are the vertical winds modeled for Paine Field airport (Everett), starting Wed evening going out 72 hrs. https://a.atmos.washington.edu/mm5rt/rt/showtimeheight_d3.cgi?initmodel=GFS&yyyymmddhh=2020090912&loc=kpae&locname=Everett,WA&latlon=47.92N,122.27W. Read the x- axis right to left and subtract 7 hrs for local time (i.e. 10/12 means 10th Sept at 12Z, or 5AM PDT). Y axis is different pressure levels, topping out around 9000 feet above ground. Remember, wind barbs are show the direction FROM which the wind blows. Strong north winds on the 9th evening, gradually slackening over the next day and then turning southwesterly by the 11th morning, when the smoke started to arrive. Or if you look around the 850mb level (~4500 ft), east winds transition to west winds around the same period. Hope that clears it

      Delete
  28. Thanks so much for all this great communication and providing such high quality smoke information.

    I'm curious if the WAQA Hazardous breakpoint has changed in the past couple years? Everything I can find online says a Nowcast value of 135.5 or higher is Hazardous according to WAQA. However, the PNW Smoke Map at the top of this blog, if you click on stations, tells you the Nowcast, and many are over 135.5 but have WAQA values less than 300 on Ecology's map: https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/home/map

    Doing the math, it seems the WAQA Hazardous breakpoint is now 151 instead of 135.5?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. I was referring to the Ecology page, this page here: https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/home/map, and I was also referring to the WAQA hazardous breakpoint, not the AQI Very Unhealthy.

      There's a perfect example on there right now, checked at 8:45pm PDT. Clicking the Seattle 10th and Weller from the map at the top of this blog, it says: "Contains data through 20:00 Sep 12 2020 (PDT), Nowcast: 151"

      The ecology map, the one at https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/home/map, lists the same station at exactly WAQA 300.

      Delete
    3. Sorry I meant the map above uses the AQI, not Ecology's WAQA. And yes, the WAQA Hazardous breakpoint DID change about 5 years ago, from 135.5 to 150.5. So a NowCast of 151 is indeed a WAQA of 300 (Hazardous), while the corresponding AQI value is 203 (Very Unhealthy). Does that clear it?

      Delete
    4. Yes, thanks so much! Everything I could find online said it was 135.5, and the numbers just weren't making sense with that, so thanks for confirming it was indeed changed.

      Delete
  29. Hi! If you had to choose a time window to run a marathon in the Leavenworth area between now and Monday evening, what would you shoot for?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Sometime when you get a chance (on Monday or in the week) could you explain why the south end of Lake Sammamish has been having such good air quality when all around it is in the hazardous range. I assume the meter is working. Is there something in the topography of being at the south end of the lake that is protecting it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Viv, thats easy. The monitor at Lake Sam only measures ozone, not PM2.5 (aka smoke).

      Delete
  31. Is the air around Ellensburg, WA supposed to clear up on Sunday or Monday? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  32. thank you so very much for answering all of our questions and for this amazing resource. possibly an annoying question, but would you consider it possible to run outside tomorrow, sunday in Seattle area for someone of the healthy population? just curious, not sure of the forecast tomrrow if it will be better than today, Saturday.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Will Ecology have more info on the benefits or necessity of wearing a mask inside your home? This comment thread was the first I've seen that. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's currently no data on the benefits wearing a mask specifically inside your home. Normally, N95 respirators, if fitted and worn properly, can reduce exposure to wildfire smoke (regardless inside or outside), but the supply is currently limited and need to be saved for those with high risk for COVID at their job, like frontline and essential workers. Cloth coverings generally do not provide much protection from wildfire smoke. It's best to take other actions to reduce exposure indoors first (see the health tab for more info).

      Delete
  34. we have plans to drive through North Cascades NP tues 9/15. Should mountain peaks be visible then? The forcast map only goes out 24 hrs is that correct?
    thanks chip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Forecast covers 48 hrs (all of today & tomorrow). Smoke may have cleared from the N Cascades by then, but clouds will likely obscure visibility.

      Delete
  35. Do you think Orange is safe for healthy people to participate in exercise (running or rock climbing) outside?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Check the monitors when making real time decisions like this. Strenuous exercise in compromised air can be problematic even for healthy individuals.

      Delete
  36. Is there a burn ban in effect for bonneylake wa can i light a barbecue

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Different burn restrictions apply for different burn devices. See https://www.co.pierce.wa.us/982/Outdoor-Burning

      Delete
  37. Im curious what your POV is on the Berkeley research that exposure to this smoke is like smoking 25 cigarettes in a day. Do you think that’s even true if you stay inside 95% of the day?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Smoking cigarettes isn’t directly comparable because the chemical compounds of each differ. Also, smoking cigarettes is a chronic exposure whereas wildfire smoke is seasonal and intermittent. These differences in exposure complicate the direct comparison. It also depends how your air quality is inside your house and whether you can keep your indoor air clean. While we don’t think the comparison is adequate, the bottom line is clear: breathing in both smoke wildfires and cigarettes is bad for your health.

      Delete
    2. Here is some more info from Matt Kadlec, a toxicologist with the air quality program at the Washington State Department of Ecology: “Using Berkley Earth’s estimates of number of cigarettes smoked equivalence to outdoor PM2.5 air pollution to estimate how many cigarettes would be the same as current wildfire smoke levels is wrong. Berkley Earth compared numbers of deaths from breathing coal smoke in China relative to deaths in the US from smoking cigarettes. But coal smoke is more toxic than wildfire smoke, and wildfire smoke is more toxic than cigarette smoke. The uncertainties in estimating equivalent toxic doses are large. If we knew how much more toxic wildfire smoke is compared to cigarette smoke, we could make a better estimate of equivalent numbers of cigarettes. Secondhand cigarette smoke is similar to wildfire smoke - both are harmful, especially to infants, children, elderly people, and people with pre-existing cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses - but wildfire smoke has higher amounts of certain toxic chemicals than cigarettes do and the duration and timing of inhalation exposures are different.”

      Delete
  38. Seems less in Belltown downtown this evening at 9:21 at least could open my windows!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Do you have directions to the subsurface caves? Just kidding... thanks for the information, I really appreciate what you are all doing!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Probably not a question to ask here but does anyone know how this severe smoke affects wildlife?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. High levels of smoke can be harmful to animals. While not specific to wildlife, here are fact sheets on how to protect pets and large animals/live stock from wildfire smoke that might be interesting: (1) https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/smoke_fires/protect-your-pets-from-wildfire-smoke.pdf, (2) https://www.airnow.gov/sites/default/files/2019-03/protect-your-large-animals-and-livestock-from-wildfire-smoke.pdf

      Delete
  41. We're choking here in Vancouver WA at AQI 460. What are the most updated weather and smoke forecasts for easing conditions on Sunday Sept 13, specifically how low the AQI might go Sunday & Monday? Also is evacuation by small plane available only to wealthy people? Is the hospital the only place to get oxygen to help breathing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, sorry about your predicament. Expecting Very Unhealthy air today and "improving" to Unhealthy tomorrow.

      Delete
  42. Thank you for this blog. You sound so patient with answering questions- even ones that doesn’t pertain. I just want to say that you are definitely making the world a better place.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I can barely see the trees across the street, it's so thick here in Olympia....but fog is present too. How does fog affect the smoke? Since I can't tell one from the other visually, what's the smoke metering at here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes there's a lot of fog mixed in. Only monitors can tell them apart. The nearest monitor is reporting Unhealthy air now.

      Delete
  44. Thank you so much! You're doing great!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Would you recommend leaving the Seattle area for few days with a toddler? Considering the 30 min trip to the airport + time (~2 hours) staying there waiting for boarding. Don't know the air quality inside the airport and if it riskier than staying at home with air purifier nearby.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably not worth the effort. Relief is coming tomorrow so hang in there.

      Delete
    2. We actually evacuated. Having 6month old kiddo and I myself was feeling weak even during the week even when the pollution level was “yellow”. Was definitely worth the effort for us. Will wait until it becomes “green”.

      Delete
  46. Thank you all for these ongoing updates! Really appreciate the effort you took in collecting all these resources and teaching us how to use them. Wish other parts of the government -- cough cough -- worked this diligently for the public good. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  47. +1 to what @arcataroger said. This has become my go to resource now. Many thanks Ranil!

    ReplyDelete
  48. Thanks to the team that makes this site go! Your hard work, diligence, insights, and tools provide vital guidance during bathers difficult times. Much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  49. It's raining very lightly in Queen Anne (Seattle) now, is there any hope of things turning around this evening or tomorrow? Maybe I am being over optimistic. Thank you for the thorough updates!

    ReplyDelete
  50. Thank you for all the work you have been doing for all of us, here and elsewhere. Just out of curiosity, why is it that whenever I look at the State Ecology interactive map, Seattle always (and I mean ALWAYS) has more smoke and worse air quality than virtually everyone else in this part of Western Washington? Does Seattle just naturally attract smoke or something?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually thats not true, many other parts of the state, particularly in eastern WA are often immediately downwind of our own fires and experience much worse conditions than much of western WA. See the map we showed in our blog post yesterday (https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/2020/09/is-this-worst-smoke-weve-had.html). We've shown this in past years too (see https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/2018/08/while-waiting-for-bc-smoke-scene-2-lets.html, for example).
      When there are no wildfires, Seattle often runs higher than other parts of the state because of higher emissions from traffic, industry, shipping, recreation etc.

      Delete
  51. Like The Weather Channel when does anybody see this clearing up like in a month would it take this to clear up by the end of October November or completely winter time what would you say and when I say this I mean asking from an actual expert of a device with full facts of experience to know exactly when the smoke might exactly clear up or I should say like timing that it will and can clear up how long is there an estimate that it will take cuz I know the rain is set to come in soon since it is fall now or going into fall

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sooner than that. We expect a substantial improvement by Friday in western WA and Saturday in eastern WA. Next week isnt looking bad for smoke either.

      Delete
  52. Do you know how the visibility is looking up around Olympic National park? Improving soon?

    Thank You :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brad, you are commenting on a blog article from 1 week ago. Please see the main page (https://wasmoke.blogspot.com) for the latest information. Its all clear now.

      Delete

We monitor this site during business hours, Monday through Friday, 8AM to 5PM. We encourage your questions, comments, and feedback. We ask that everyone be respectful of the opinions of others, and avoid comments that are defamatory, inappropriate or off-topic. If you have an emergency, please call 911.

We moderate all comments to prevent spam. Your comment will publish upon review