Wildfire haze should ease up through Thursday

Sep 5, 2017, 5:53 AM | Updated: Sep 7, 2017, 7:35 am

The National Weather Service in Seattle‘s Air Quality Alert continues into Thursday afternoon, but Western Washington’s smoky haze has been slow to drift away.

“There’s still some haze,” KIRO 7 meteorologist Nick Allard noted early Thursday morning. “Tomorrow is the day when you will see the least amount of haze we’ve had in days. But it is getting better. It’s just a slow process.”

Map of wildfires in Washington, Oregon

Allard said that wind will come from off the coast and the southwest to move the smoky haze out of Western Washington over Thursday, but that may not move it all out.

“That cloud cover from the south will continue to drift north,” he said. “Even as ocean air pushes in, the cloud cover from the south also has upper-level smoke from fires in Oregon. That’s why it’s tricky to clean everything out.”

Allard said that lower level air should improve most.

The smoky haze around Western Washington is the result of wildfires from Washington to Montana, and also from Oregon. It has dropped the quality of air in the region for days. The National Weather Service reports visibility in Bellingham and Fort Lewis was only three miles on Wednesday. It was six miles at Paine Field in Everett and Sea-Tac Airport.

Wildfire ash and air quality

While smoky haze can drop temperatures, Western Washington has experienced an extended period of hot days. Thursday was the 71st straight day at 70 degrees or higher. Allard expects that streak to break on Saturday, which will be the coolest day since June 17. Saturday could also bring rain, which could improve air quality that has suffered under the haze.

“We just need a good soaking rain,” he said. “Saturday is your best bet, but even then it’s not that heavy.”

Allard said that some showers could move through the region on Friday morning, and a few on Saturday. Rain is most likely along the coast.

RELATED: UW doctor’s tips for breathing amid smoky haze

Western Washington air quality dropped on Wednesday morning, leaving much of the Eastside and parts of Seattle, Tacoma and Federal Way rated “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” according to government air quality monitors. By Thursday morning, quality improved to “moderate,” but areas east of Maple Valley were still unhealthy.

Air is worst at elevations between 1,000-1,500 feet. Children, the elderly and people with respiratory illnesses are the most at risk.

Wildfire ash was carried along with the haze into Western Washington, sticking to cars. Ash fell through Wednesday morning, and was reported as far west as Kitsap and the Olympic Peninsula.

“A little bit unusual, it’s a little bit unnerving,” Cook said. “Hopefully, we’ll see that ease up a little bit.”

Auto experts tell KIRO 7 that drivers should not wipe away the ash from their cars, which can be abrasive and scratch paint. Instead, thoroughly rinse your car first, then wash it.

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Wildfire haze should ease up through Thursday