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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Statewide Smoke Update

The frontal system and high winds that screamed through Washington yesterday caught hold of many seemingly human-caused ignitions starts.  It was a historically tragic day of significant fire growth that lead to multiple evacuations, homes and businesses lost, dust storms, traffic accidents, roads closed, and thick smoky air across large parts of the state.   Fires in Central WA made large runs, traveling many miles, with more land burned than what we normally see in an entire year.

Heavy smoke is still being generated from the Inchelium and Cold Springs / Pearl Hill fires.  Communities in Okanogan and bordering counties (Chelan, Ferry, Douglas) are going to continue to see fire and smoke for the foreseeable future.  As winds push through the Columbia Basin, some of that smoke will also travel southwest and intermittently send smoke to Central WA.

A lot of the smoke in Western and Central WA cleared out this morning, but calmer winds in the the northern half of Washington haven't allowed the air to clear.  There is still Moderate to Unhealthy air being monitored from Tacoma to Bellingham and out to the peninsula.  Smoke can be seen in many mountain valleys and this could stick around for the day, sloshing around the greater Puget Sound region and likely heading south back towards Tacoma/Olympia.  There are also many new fires being detected today in Western Washington.  This NWCG link shows fire detects over the past day and new emerging fire locations. 

Map of Air Quality and Smoke from Fires (Sept 8, 2020 @ 1 pm)

Today's animated GOES imagery shows new fire activity in Skamania county from the Big Hollow fire (over 6,000 acres), which is sending a thick smoke plume across SouthWest Washington and NW Oregon.  This fire will likely continue to send smoke west today and tomorrow and could travel north to Olympia/Tacoma along with Oregon smoke on Thursday. Oregon has some very large fires, with the Lionshead and Beachie Creek pouring thick smoke into the air.  SouthWestern Washington should expect smoke impacts from Oregon starting Thursday.

GOES Image of Smoke from Fires (Sept 8, 2020 @ 1 pm)

Many people are wondering where to go to escape the smoke, but conditions are dynamic and changing quickly, so most communities should be prepared to stay indoors.  There are several things you can do to keep your home's air quality smoke free, discussed on the Health Information page of this blog.

Western Washington is under a Red Flag Warning for high winds and fire danger!  Please do your part to keep fire off the ground!  RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 11 PM PDT THURSDAY FOR GUSTY WINDS AND LOW HUMIDITY, AS WELL AS HOT, DRY, AND UNSTABLE CONDITIONS FOR FIRE WEATHER ZONES.


75 comments:

  1. Thanks for the update! It seems that based on the number of starts in the western half of the state and our flanks (Canada and Oregon), Olympia/Lacey will probably be seeing smoke impacts for at least the week?

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    1. Hi Joe, hard to forecast that far out since we dont know how quickly fires will be contained. Westerly winds (scheduled for Friday/ Saturday) will likely place Oly upwind of these fires. So if there are no new fires in the Olympics, that might be the time we start to see some relief.

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    2. So I would assume that red dots are bad areas and green better?

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    3. Joe: yes. The map at the top of the blog has a color legend.

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    4. No, we are unable to see the color legend. So, what do the colors mean?

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    5. Green means air quality is in a good range.
      Yellow means lower air quality but it isn't dangerous to most people. People with breathing problems need to take precautions.
      Orange means it is even lower quality and outdoor activities should be minimized. People with breathing issues should remain indoors as much as possible.
      Red means the air quality is dangerously low and everyone should remain indoors as much as possible. Outdoor sports/activities should be cancelled.

      I am a former soccer club field scheduler and have had to use this information in determining if soccer matches could be played in Eastern Washington when there were many fires in our area in previous years.

      You can search for air quality and find the web page where this screen shot was clipped from and enter you zip code to monitor real-time the air-quality in your area.

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    6. Your legend is not displayed on your map= therefore your data is not able to be understood. Please fix this. Colored circles and triangles are pretty but meaningless.

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    7. The legend is on the map at the top of this blog. The AQI scale is also discussed in many sources. Triangles are temporary monitors. Green is Good. Red is Unhealthy Purple is worse.

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  2. Please add the key to your maps so we know what they mean.

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    1. Point taken, expect that it can be hard to do that when you're only cropping out part of a national product. For air quality categories, the colors are the ones you see on the map of live monitoring data at the top of the blog.

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  3. Thank you for all you do

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  4. anything near Lake Chelan that would impact that area or travel from Seattle to that area?

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    1. Yes, Chelan air has been Unhealthy for a day now and is forecast to remain Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups for at least another two days.

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    2. Thank you for this!! Any update on the containment level of fires near Chelan and expected smoke status next week?

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  5. THANK YOU GUYS" I WILL BE WATCHING OUT FOR THE SMOKE" I STAY IN SEATTLE WA,

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  6. What is the national product (link) so we can interpret squares, triangles, etc

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  7. This is very informative and helpful! Thank you for keeping us in the loop (and in a way we can understand, too!).

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  8. Does putting on central airconditioning help to get clean air in the house or does it do the opposite?

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    1. Good question. It depends. A good HVAC system with a HEPA filter would help, but if individuals are very sensitive, that might not be sufficient. A separate clean room with a dedicated air purifier (which doesnt produce ozone) will be the most effective in such a situation.

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    2. Most modern central air systems have a fresh air intake, so you will be drawing in smoky air. You should be able to access this pipe--will be on the intake side of your air handler (furnace), and close the valve to limit the amount of fresh (well, smoky in this case) air drawn in. It is not a tight seal sort of valve, so some outside air certainly still sneaks by. Then the question is whether your filter can filter out the smoke, which is doubtful. So, in my opinion, running the central air will only make your indoor air quality worse, but it may be worth the trade-off for comfort. If you do run it, you will certainly want to close the fresh air intake valve (turn the handle so that it is perpendicular to the pipe).

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    3. dear Anonymous - Wow, thanks for that explanation. All I've been hearing on the radio in Seattle is run your a/c if you have it (which I do).
      I had no idea I could be making the air worse inside my house.

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    4. Many window and portable AC units can eaily be adjusted to divert the intake hose so it is closed to outside but instead draws air from inside the home. This allows the AC unit to keep cooling the home as it recycles the inside air and without pulling the smoky air into the home.

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    5. Most if not all furnaces (air handlers) have a filter unit installed. The MERV rating of the filter indicates how well it filters particles from the air. Higher number=better filtering.

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  9. How will the South Puget Sound be looking for the next day or so? Mainly Puyallup area?

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    1. Please watch our 2-day statewide forecast map at https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/home/text/421. that area is expected to have Unhealthy air through tomorrow.

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  10. We are planning to hike up to Rachel Lake near Kachess Lake campgrounds tomorrow (Wednesday). Do you have any information on the air quality in that area?

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    1. Nearest monitor is in Cle Elum and it is showing Good air right now, but we expect it to be around Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups tomorrow.

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  11. Thank you for all the great information. Do you have a sense of the areas near Sumas, WA later this week?

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  12. Thank you so much for this excellent blog. It was a life saver two and three years ago when we had terrible smoke in Puget Sound.

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  13. What about Euphrata Soap Lake area? Specifically by Skokiam.

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    1. Very close to the big fires. Please see the map at the top of the blog showing latest AQ monitor readings and fire locations

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  14. Thank you, however, maps would be actually useful if not an image.

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    1. Please see the forecast map at https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/home/text/421

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  15. We are planning to hike to Ingalls Lake tomorrow and stay until Friday morning. What do you think the air quality will be? Thanks.

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    1. Wont be smoke free for sure. Prepare for periods of Unhealthy air, though it may on occasion dip down to Moderate.

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  16. Is air quality in NE Marysville going to worsen this year?

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    1. It certainly did worsen this morning. Some wildfire smoke is likely in varying amounts through the end of Thursday. As for the rest of the year, wintertime woodsmoke is often a concern in Marysville.

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  17. We are considering a trip to Ocean Shores tomorrow afternoon. What is the quality at the ocean? Any concerns?

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  18. Thank you so much for this information, it is so helpful.

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  19. hello people I'm trying to spend this weekend on lake Chelan with family are there ok to drive and stay there ?

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    1. Thats right downwind of the big fires right now but winds will relax a bit closer to the weekend, and there will be some clearing. Yet I expect residual smoke to linger. Hard to forecast what AQ category this early.

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  20. I’ve been observing earthquake activity and see that there has been quite a lot of shaking and low level quakes happening in central and south central Washington. Any chance that radioactive air rising with the fires from around the Hanford nuclear storage facility? And are there any sources where folks could monitor that particulate matter?

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    1. There are no fires around Hanford, nor is there the sort of heavy vegetation for large, sustained fires. Radiation studies conducted there are described at https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/radiation/brochure/profile_hanford.htm.

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  21. I am heading out to Electric City, near Banks lake Thursday, are there any wild fires nearby here?

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    1. Yes, thats in the thick of it all. Please see the map at the top of the blog showing latest AQ monitor readings and fire locations

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  22. Does anyone know about air conditioning that comes with heat pumps? Not a good idea like central air?

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    1. Any forced air system with a good HEPA filter will help, but that might not suffice for very sensitive individuals. They might require a clean air room.

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    2. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication. We appreciate it in my household very much!

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    4. Pamela: our advice has always been to use a HEPA filter, or if needed, set up a dedicated clean room with an air purifier. Filters with high MERV values offer even less filtration than HEPAs.

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  23. Hi-we are now planning on going to Chain Lakes near Mt. Baker tomorrow afternoon through Friday. What do you think the air quality will be?

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    1. Should vary between Good and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups at times.

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  24. What is the situation at Brewster or Pateros? Thanks for the updates.

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    1. As you can see from the map of AQ monitors above, that area is getting hit very hard and is expected to continue to be smoky (Unhealthy or worse at times).

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  25. Any idea how the air will be in the Enchantments / Leavenworth this coming Saturday (09/11)? Was planning to hike there.

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    1. Some marginal improvements but not expecting it to be smoke free. Plan for periods of Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups and take precautions. Postpone if possible.

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  26. What's the prediction for Seattle to Bellingham Friday afternoon through Saturday? Hoping to drive up for an overnight.

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  27. I have been looking at the jet stream forecast here https://weatherstreet.com/models/gfs-jetstream-wind-forecast.php and it seems to show that winds are in the southernly direction from Canada down through WA into Oregon and CA. If that is true, why does the smoke from eastern WA seem to be moving in the west direction? Is that jet stream model inaccurate or am I reading it wrong? thanks!

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    1. BJ, thats the wind at 300 millibars (~ 30K ft above ground). Smoke rarely gets that high up. Look at the winds at 850 or 700 millibars (windy.com is a good source for checking different heights and different models) and you will see the easterly winds (i.e. moving smoke from eastern WA to western WA).

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  28. Even if the smoke clears from eastern WA fires, can Seattle and northward expect much smoke to flow up from Oregon or even California on Friday or after?

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    1. Thats the question we're not very sure about as yet. Some models have that OR smoke inching northward along the I5 corridor on Friday but not sure if the marine push on Saturday will be strong enough to shunt off all of it eastward or not.

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  29. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  30. https://cfpub.epa.gov/airnow/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_state&stateid=49&mapcenter=0&tabs=2

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