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Air quality continues to improve with some areas reporting ‘moderate’ levels

Smoke settling over Pike Place Market in Seattle. (Getty Images)

Air quality across Western Washington continues to improve on Friday as rain arrives across the region, with some areas along the I-5 corridor reporting “moderate” numbers.

The Washington Department of Ecology expects Western Washington’s recent bout of poor air quality to end by early Saturday.

“The worst is behind us but it ain’t over yet,” the Department of Ecology said in a recent blog post. “Strong winds off the Pacific are MIA so we have to take what the lighter, shifty winds with little rain dish out.”

Those lighter winds bring “disorganized, mixed results,” hence the slower clearing of smoke. However, the DOE notes that the run of poor air quality “is nearly over now,” and that they “don’t see an immediate return to terrible air next week.”

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Air quality levels between Bellingham and Olympia currently range between 120 and 180, settling between 170 and 180 in most parts of Seattle. Some areas are in the low 100 range, with Tulalip at 98.

Air quality is typically measured on a scale of 0 to 500. Between 51 and 100 is considered “moderate,” 101 to 150 is “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” 151 to 200 is “unhealthy,” 201 to 300 is “very unhealthy,” and 301 to 500 is considered “hazardous.”

For the first time in over a week, virtually all of Western Washington now resides in the “moderate” category or better, having sat in the “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” range for most of the last two weeks. You can monitor ongoing air quality through the Washington Department of Ecology’s interactive map here.

Thanks to those improvements, Seattle parks began reopening Friday morning, although smoke “continues to be a concern for children, seniors, and those with health conditions.”

An air quality warning for Western Washington remains in effect through 10 a.m. Saturday.

The Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington has put together a list of tips for dealing with smoke. Besides closing windows and staying indoors, the DEOHS recommends people avoid vacuuming or frying food. Also, try to recirculate air with a fan that has a filter. You can build your own by putting a HEPA filter into a box fan.

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