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Puget Sound air quality, smoke Seattle
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‘Good news’ for Puget Sound smoke forecast despite ongoing wildfires

Smoke along the waterfront in Seattle in 2020. (MyNorthwest photo)

While several wildfires continue to burn east of the Cascades, the Puget Sound region is expected to avoid much in the way of smoke or poor air quality.

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That’s largely due to onshore winds, which have continued “to keep the smoke at bay and maintain air quality in the green zone.”

“That’s good news if you’re in Western Washington,” according to the latest update from the Washington Smoke Blog, run by a coalition of state, county, and federal agencies alongside Indian Tribes.

Closer to central and southeast Washington, though, a handful of large fires “are producing a significant amount of smoke.” The resulting air quality in those regions ranges from unhealthy to hazardous, but is expected to improve “as the day goes on and the warmth of the sun increases mixing in the atmosphere.”

To the northeast near Winthrop, pyrocumulus clouds — known colloquially as “fire clouds” — have been gathering as a result of the Cub Creek Fire. These clouds are typically visible from hundreds of miles away, composed of ash and other particles from active wildfires.

Anyone living near the Mazama, Winthrop, Twisp, and Clarkston regions should expect air quality to be problematic for most of this week, especially closer to the southeast Washington/Oregon border.

The state also has an air quality alert in effect “until further notice” for Asotin, Ferry, Garfield, Okanogan, Stevens, and Whitman counties.

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Washington has already seen 17 large fires through July 18, spanning a total of 184 square miles. That marks a sizable increase from 2020, which had seen six large fires across roughly 30 square miles through that same date last year.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources estimates that there are nine major wildfires currently burning across the state, amid an ongoing drought emergency in all but the Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett metropolitan areas.

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