By Bruce A. Smith
Day 6 – August 6, 2017.
Smoke from regional forest fires continues to plague Washington residents, especially in the Puget Sound Basin. Air quality has improved somewhat since Thursday, August 3, the nadir of air quality, but we still have gray-brown skies throughout much of our area.
Over twenty major conflagrations are raging in British Columbia, and northern winds are pushing smoke from those blazes into our skies. We also have smoke coming from fires in Chelan and the Okanogan in Washington, along with smaller fires located on both sides of the Cascades.
Today, Sunday August 6, air quality readings at the Department of Ecology’s monitoring station in Puyallup read “52,” which is characterized as “moderately” unhealthy. Under these conditions, the DOE recommends that folks with health issues such as asthma, cardiac, or diabetes continue to remain indoors and limit their physical exertion. However, these people have been dealing with this assault on their breathing for nearly a week, and many are complaining of head aches, sore throats and chest pains. Often they just “feel lousy.”
However, area residents caught a break on Friday evening as cool winds blew in from the west and knocked down the 90-degree temperatures and pushed some of the smoke to the east. DOE readings in Puyallup reached a low of 39 at 9 pm, which is deemed “healthy,” down from a high of 238 the evening prior when conditions were labeled “very unhealthy.”
In fact, the Friday night nearly-full moon shone white, in contrast to its orange glow on Thursday evening and again last night, Saturday. The coloration change is due to the dirty air refracting the light, much as a sunset shines red.
In addition, our day time temperatures are ten degrees less than at the height of the heat wave at mid-week. The high temp in Eatonville on Saturday, August 5 was 86 degrees, while Friday topped-out at 95. Today’s forecast is mid-high 80s. That level of heat is forecast by the Weather Underground to continue through the next ten days.
Unfortunately, the Weather Underground is also predicting that winds will continue to blow from the north or north-west through Thursday, which will continue to deliver smoke from the forest fires in British Columbia. According to the Weather Underground the winds will not shift to the west until Friday, and even then their strength will be modest, with wind speeds expected to be only 5 mph.
As a result, the smoke will be with us probably for another week.