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Smoke should clear from Seattle skies by Tuesday

Aug 21, 2023, 7:35 AM | Updated: 7:52 am

Seattle wildfires...

Smoke from wildfires obscure the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline on Sept. 12, 2020. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

Smoke drifting from multiple fires in Canada and Eastern Washington is has spread across the state over the weekend, as officials warn residents the air quality could reach unhealthy levels.

Smoke from the Sourdough fire in the North Cascades hung over Seattle earlier this week before clearing out. But that didn’t last long.

Meteorologists with the Washington Smoke Blog said that as winds shift Saturday evening, smoke is returned to blanket the state. It was very smoky in most of Central and Eastern Washington through the weekend, ranging from moderate to unhealthy conditions.

“It wasn’t a matter of if, but when smoke would hit,” Kaitlyn Kelly, an air quality policy specialist, said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Wildfire smoke season is here in Washington, which means we need to be proactive about taking steps to protect ourselves.”

Onshore flow is kicking in along the coast and parts of the southwest interior, which will start to clear the smoke. By Tuesday morning, the smoke should be pushed out of the area.

 

“People will notice an irritation burning itching and yes, that is a that is a problem. But there’s actually more serious impacts in terms of asthma triggering asthma attacks. There’s also risks for heart and lungs for breathing and there’s also a developmental risk potentially for a fetus and developing kids,” Phil Swartsendrber, an Air Quality Scientist with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency told KIRO 7.

More on the air in Washington: Smoke from Sourdough fire hangs over Seattle

Air Quality Alerts were issued for dozens of counties throughout the state Friday. An air quality alert went into effect Sunday and will continue through Monday until around 12 p.m.

The alert comes as smoke from the Sourdough and Blue Lake forest fires settles overhead. According to AirNow.gov, Seattle is currently experiencing “unhealthy levels” of smoke. This means that everyone will experience negative health effects after being outside and that sensitive groups should take extra precautions to avoid inhaling the smoke.

While a lot of distant wildfire smoke would tend to stay higher in the atmosphere, the fires in the Cascade Mountains are close enough that surface air quality will likely deteriorate, particularly on Sunday.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends residents take steps to prepare for the drop in air quality, particularly sensitive groups like children, the elderly or those with a preexisting medical condition.

Some steps to limit unhealthy smoke inhalation include:

  • Closing windows and doors unless temperatures inside get too hot.
  • Filtering indoor air by using an HVAC system, HEPA portable air cleaner or a do-it-yourself box fan filter.
  • Not adding to indoor air pollution, such as smoking or burning candles indoors.
  • Setting air conditioning units to recirculate.

Dry conditions have led to burn bans throughout Western Washington. That includes Skagit, Whatcom, King, Island and Snohomish counties, among others.

More on the state’s fire season: Sen. Cantwell says Washington will be ‘epicenter of severe wildfires’ in summer

The National Weather Service said the fire danger will be elevated this week due to the ongoing drought conditions, high temperatures, low relative humidity and light offshore winds.

The state Department of Ecology offers a five-day forecast map for smoke conditions in the region.

Contributing: KIR0 7

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Smoke should clear from Seattle skies by Tuesday