Friday, July 23, 2021

Smoky starts continue in the Methow

Day after day, the Methow Valley has woken up to a thick haze of smoke coming from the nearby Cedar Creek, Cub Creek and Delancy wildfires, leading the valley to experience what has been the worst air quality readings in the entire country (potentially even the planet, according to the National Weather Service).

As temperatures cool overnight, the smoke settles into the valley like a blanket, and residents face starting the day with air quality in the very unhealthy to hazardous range. As the day goes on, the sun warms the surface and allows the smoke to mix up into the atmosphere, somewhat improving air quality.

It’s a frustrating pattern that appears to be set to continue through the weekend and into next week.
Tweet from National Weather Service saying that air quality in the Methow may be the worst on the planet

When air quality is in this unhealthy range, people should try to stay indoors as much as possible, with the doors and windows closed. Setting the air conditioning to recirculate, or using a HEPA portable air cleaner, allows the air in the room to repeatedly pass through the filter, scrubbing the smoke particles out of the air. Likewise, if you’re in your car, set the air conditioning to recirculate. And, if you must be outside, wear an N95 mask if possible, and try not to stay out too long.

Air quality readings in the Methow Valley have been unhealthy or worse.

Clean Air Methow and the University of Washington Department of Environment and Occupational Health Sciences have a brochure with tips and strategies to stay healthy during these extended periods of wildfire smoke -

On a related note, remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and significant concerns remain about the potential for wildfire smoke to exacerbate the disease. For more information about COVID-19 and wildfire smoke this season visit the Washington Department of Health’s Smoke from Fires page.

Smoke covers the Methow Valley Airport in this WSDOT photo.

The Department of Ecology extended an Air Quality Alert for Okanogan County through at least the weekend. Asotin and Ferry counties are also under an Air Quality Alert, although we’re not expecting the smoke impacts there to be as bad as what the Methow is facing.

It’s not all bad news from these super-stable weather patterns, however: West of the mountains, it continues to be a glorious summer with endless blue-sky days and air quality firmly fixed in the “good” category.

If you are a west-sider, spare a thought for your neighbors to the east as you enjoy another beautiful weekend.


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