Thick wildfire smoke blankets Seattle with another gunky day on the way
SEATTLE -- Perry Como once wrote "The Bluest Skies You've Ever Seen Are In Seattle"
We'll have to take his word for it this week.
Another round of thick wildfire smoke has blown into much of Western Washington, washing out the skies in a milky brown haze and sending air quality levels to unhealthy levels for sensitive groups across a wide swath of the region. And now it looks like it's going to stay around an extra day.
Most air-quality stations in the Seattle area were registering "unhealthy for sensitive groups" as of 4p.m. Tuesday. Thus the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency recommends that children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory illnesses at risk of serious health effects should limit or avoid spending time outdoors until the air quality improves.
Much like the smoke that blew in from California last week and from British Columbia over the weekend, this smoke was limited to hanging out fairly high in the atmosphere, but that began to change later Monday afternoon.
First of all, high pressure brought sinking air that pushed some of the Canadian smoke that had been aloft closer to the surface. Meanwhile, winds near the ground veered to an easterly direction late Monday, blowing in some smoke from the Cougar Creek, Crescent Mountain and McLeod fires burning in central and eastern Washington.
And the thick smoke is going to stick around a bit longer than anticipated. Forecasts indicated some cleaner ocean air would filter into at least the Puget Sound region Tuesday afternoon and evening, but those winds are failing to materialize and thus it looks like we'll stay with unhealthy air through Tuesday night and into Wednesday. There is greater evidence of stronger ocean winds Wednesday evening that should clean out the lowlands.
But Como's blue skies? Still a pipe dream for the foreseeable future.
With so many fires burning across the West, almost no matter which way the wind blows, we'll bring smoke from somewhere.
Later this week, the upper level winds shift to the south, closing off the B.C. smoke and replacing it once again with smoke from the California wildfires:
How long will see see smoky skies?
Long range forecasts show upper level winds generally continuing to come for directions were wildfires are burning for several days.
Our best bet to clear out would be a weather pattern with a strong jet stream off the ocean to blow in cleaner air, but the jet stream is up around the Alaska Panhandle this time of year and usually doesn't begin to really stick around here until later September and October. We may get a day or two of relief from a wayward trough of low pressure, but we really need to get back into the start of the rainy season for significant extended improvement.
So while low level air quality should improve in Western Washington as we get into the end of the week, hazy, smoky skies are expected to remain for quite some time.
It's not just us...
The wildfires have been so expansive that smoke just doesn’t cover Washington, or even just the entire Pacific Northwest.
Smoke has spread out to cover much of the Intermountain West -- with even some smoke drifting into the Upper Midwest!
Parts of Minnesota and Michigan have also had some smoke aloft:
And here is a visible satellite image of the smoke -- note the Dakotas and Minnesota!
Tips for combating the smoke:
The Department of Health has these tips for dealing with wildfire smoke:
- People with health conditions such as lung diseases, diabetes, stroke survivors, or even those who have a cold should limit time outside and avoid intense physical activities when the air quality is considered "moderate" -- as much of the region is at least this bad on Tuesday. Add in babies, children, those over 65 and pregnant women when the conditions degrade to "unhealthy for sensitive groups".
- Close windows and doors
- Stay hydrated
- If you have an air conditioner, whether in your home or in your car, set it to "recirculate" air from inside than draw from the outside.
- Don't smoke, use candles, or vacuum.
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