The sun rises over Bagshaw Field at 24th Avenue and Broadway in Everett on Wednesday. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The sun rises over Bagshaw Field at 24th Avenue and Broadway in Everett on Wednesday. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

The smog is clearing, but the reprieve might be temporary

Officials warn that dangerous smoke from hundreds of Northwest wildfires could return next week.

By Herald staff and Associated Press

EVERETT — The smoke that has choked the Northwest for several days was expected to dissipate overnight and Thursday — in the Puget Sound region, at least — with breathing getting increasingly easy through the weekend. But forecasters said the same weather pattern that prompted this week’s unhealthful air could return next week.

Smoggy air from hundreds of wildfires in Washington, British Columbia and Oregon prompted warnings Wednesday by health officials who urged even fit people to stay indoors and avoid exertion. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency advised against any outdoor exercise, including walking, in Snohomish, King, Pierce and Kitsap counties.

“Although we could have some clearing tonight, with so much smoke around it will likely linger through Thursday,” the agency said in a news release. People should limit outdoor activity when possible, health officials said. Smoke can irritate eyes and worsen problems for people with pre-existing conditions.

Conditions were improving Thursday, the agency said, but it still recommended that children, pregnant women and people with breathing or heart issues avoid outdoor air if possible.

Chris Burke, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Seattle, said an onshore flow of marine air from the Pacific Ocean will gradually clear the sky here. The forecast calls for sunshine and highs in the 70s through the weekend.

But computer models foresee a return early next week of northerly and offshore winds, which suck smoke into the Puget Sound region from wildfires to the north, east and south.

If that pattern reappears, there will be more smoke here. “Those fires aren’t going anywhere,” Burke said.

Naval Station Everett is silhouetted against the water’s reflection of the smoky evening sky Tuesday in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Naval Station Everett is silhouetted against the water’s reflection of the smoky evening sky Tuesday in Everett. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Writing for his Weather and Climate blog, University of Washington atmospheric sciences Professor Cliff Mass said he’s never seen air quality so bad in Seattle.

“In central Puget Sound it is probably the worst in the nearly two-decade observing record of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency for any time of the year,” Mass said. The worst cases of poor air quality here are usually in the winter, he said, because of woodsmoke and other combustion.

This week, Mass wrote, we had a perfect storm of sorts in Western Washington: “Lots of fires around us, a meteorological situation that pushed the smoke to low levels, and the development of an inversion that kept the smoke in place.”

It was even worse east of the Cascades. In Chelan and Wenatchee, the air quality Wednesday reached the hazardous level, prompting Chelan County officials to distribute masks. An air quality alert for Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho is in effect until Friday morning.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 13 large wildfires have burned more than 211 square miles in Washington state this year, while in Oregon 10 large fires have scorched over 256 square miles. About 600 wildfires are burning across British Columbia.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said Wednesday that the air quality in Portland and Medford was unhealthy.

Health officials said wildfire smoke could cause a range of health problems, including an asthma attack, breathing problems, coughing, stinging eyes, irritated sinuses, headaches, chest pain and a fast heartbeat.

Tips for coping with unhealthy air

  • Stay indoors when possible.
  • Limit physical activity outdoors, such as running, bicycling, physical labor and sports.
  • Close windows in your home, if possible, and keep the indoor air clean. If you have an air conditioner, use the “recirculation” switch. Use an indoor air filter, if available.
  • If you do not have an air conditioner, consider finding a public place with clean, air-conditioned indoor air like a public library or a community center.
  • Avoid driving when possible. If you must drive, keep the windows closed. If you use the car’s fan or air conditioning, make sure the system recirculates air from inside the car; don’t pull air from outside.
  • Schools, camps, sports teams, and daycare providers should consider postponing outdoor activities or moving them indoors.

Source: Puget Sound Clean Air Agency

Talk to us

More in Northwest

State Sens, Ron Muzzall, R-Whidbey Island, left, Simon Sefzik, R-Ferndale, center left, Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, center right, and Chris Gildon, R-Puyallup, right, confer on the floor of the Senate during a recess, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
House passes pause to state’s long-term care program and tax

The measure would delay the tax until July 2023, and would refund any premiums collected before then.

In this photo taken May 17, 2017, wine barrels are shown at a vineyard adjacent to the Walla Walla Vintners winery in Walla Walla, Wash. The remote southeastern Washington town of Walla Walla - which used to be best known for sweet onions and as home of the state penitentiary - has now reinvented itself into a center of premium wines and wine tourism. (AP Photo/Nicholas K. Geranios)
More sustainable Washington wines are on the way

Labels will indicate grape growers met guidelines in 9 areas, including water, pest and labor practices.

FILE - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson talks to reporters, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, during a news conference in Seattle. In a 5-4 decision Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, the Washington Supreme Court upheld an $18 million campaign finance penalty against the Consumer Brands Association, formerly known as the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Ferguson sued the group in 2013, alleging that it spent $11 million to oppose a ballot initiative without registering as a political committee or disclosing the source of the money. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington justices uphold $18M fine in GMO-labeling case

Big grocers funneled dark money into a campaign against genetically modified labels on food packaging.

Section of a tsunami high ground map. (Island County)
Tsunami warning fizzled, but future threat to Whidbey is real

State and county officials have long warned about the possibility of a tsunami striking the island.

A sign bearing the corporate logo hangs in the window of a Starbucks open only to take-away customers in this photograph taken Monday, April 26, 2021, in southeast Denver.  Starbucks is no longer requiring its U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reversing a policy it announced earlier this month. The Seattle coffee giant says, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022,  it's responding to last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Starbucks nixes vaccine mandate after Supreme Court ruling

The move reverses a policy the coffee company announced earlier this month.

Marianne Edain and Steve Erickson of WEAN at their South Whidbey home in 2019. (Laura Guido / South Whidbey Record, file)
Whidbey environment group isn’t suing county for first time in 25 years

The impact WEAN founders have had on environmental policy in Island County is extensive.

Lawsuit: Washington’s new majority Latino district is a ‘facade’

The legal action targets state Legislative District 15 in Yakima.

FILE - Trees scorched by the Caldor Fire smolder in the Eldorado National Forest, Calif., Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. The Biden administration wants to thin more forests and use prescribed burns to reduce catastrophic wildfires as climate changes makes blazes more intense. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
US plans $50B wildfire fight where forests meet suburbia

Blazes have wiped out communities in California, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and Washington state.

Skiers make their way uphill under idle lift chairs at the Summit at Snoqualmie Ski Area as fresh snow falls, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Snoqualmie Pass, Wash. Several inches of snow fell Wednesday, and the area shown was scheduled to open to skiers and begin lift operation later in the day. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Snoqualmie ski resort cuts some operations after losing power

For Monday skiing, the resort’s website said they have “less than a partial supply of energy.”

Most Read