Sixth inundation of smoke this summer – WAQA at 162, “unhealthy”

By Bruce A. Smith

The sixth inundation of smoke since August 1 settled over Eatonville today, Saturday, September 16. This makes the 22nd day in the past 47 that we have had unhealthy air to breathe.

Again, the culprits are the regional fires: Norse Peak in the Crystal Mountain region, Jolly Mountain north of I-90 in Cle Elam, and the pesky Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia Gorge. Unfortunately, our old ally – maritime winds from the west – ceased blowing on Friday night, according to the Washington Department of Ecology, allowing easterly winds to push the smoke into the Puget Sound basin.

But more disturbingly, JBLM continues to light fires this week despite the epic burns elsewhere. Dispatch at Joint Base Lewis McChord confirmed today that the military reservation had been conducting a controlled burn two days ago – Thursday – but that fire has smoldered since then, and today it re-ignited.

“We’re sending out another truck right now (3 pm Saturday) as it’s flared back-up,” JBLM Dispatch told the Mountain News.

Because of the smoke choking urban environments, along with forest fires threatening citiesthe Eagle Creek Fire has forced evacuations to within fifteen miles of Portland, Oregonfire officials are characterizing the impacts as sociological as well as physical. As a result, websites that relay air quality information and fire news to the public were jammed throughout the day, only functioning in the early evening. Simply, people are affected by forest fires like never before.

However, the DOE’s WAsmoke blog gave a current analysis. The following was posted by Ranil Dhammapala- WA Ecology at 9/16/2017 01:44:00 at: :


This smoke is trying to show us who’s boss. Even when its days are numbered

When the Canadian smoke model forecast some smoke in Seattle this morning, we thought it was over-doing the east winds. Turns out it wasn’t. Smoke from the Jolly Mountain and Norse Peak fire are now being transported to western WA. Today’s satellite picture has too many clouds to see the smoke clearly, but a look at last afternoon’s satellite image tells the story.

Seattle-ites are now being exposed to conditions similar to what the eastern foothills of the Cascades has been seeing for the last few days. Here’s a plot of fine particle pollution levels at a few comparative sites.

Notice the spike in western WA this morning: this happens when smoke aloft mixes down when the overnight temperature inversion breaks in the morning.

It is expected that these conditions will be with us until mid morning on Sunday. The I-5 corridor from Mount Vernon down to Vancouver, WA will see air varying between Good and Unhealthy, with poor air at night and slight improvements in the afternoon. Smoke may may push a little further west, possibly leading to Moderate conditions in communities on the eastern foothills of the Olympics. The Eagle Creek fire will continue to impact southwestern WA communities causing Unhealthy air in several places.

Winds (will) shift on Sunday morning and slowly but surely beat the smoke into submission by evening, showing who the REAL boss is. Wetting rains are expected in the Cascades so smoke production is likely to be diminished afterward.


Nevertheless, the smoke from these fires has combined with the soot and ash from dozens of other fires in the western United States and British Columbia and has flooded the atmosphere so completely that fine particle fall-out is being experienced throughout the mid-western USA and as far east as Buffalo, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to the New York Times today:

But there is Good News –

From the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency:

Forecast Discussion
For Sept 16-19: Saturday afternoon update: Expect MODERATE to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS air quality today in the central and western Sound as smoke from the Jolly Mtn and Norse Peak fires pushed west overnight and will linger throughout the day. Levels could reach UNHEALTHY in the Cascade foothills and closer to the fires. Medically sensitive groups should take precautions to limit exposure. Shifting winds tonight and rain tomorrow should bring us back to GOOD air quality on Sunday.
This entry was posted in Culture, Environment, Health, Smoke, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sixth inundation of smoke this summer – WAQA at 162, “unhealthy”

  1. Nancy Murphy says:

    Bruce, thanks for these update, they are invaluable. We are in Enumclaw and under a cloud of smoke most of the time. At lease it sure seems that way. I forward your reports to all of the family near here. We all appreciate the Information. The local and Seattle/Bellevue news media seems rather determined to ignore the smoke or they just are not getting much!

    I find it hard to fathom why the JBLM continues to burn. Their burn may be controlled, their smoke is not! This last satellite image you sent is appalling.

    Again, thanks and keep it up, Bruce.


    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thank you so much, Nancy. I really appreciate your comments because some times I feel like I’m howling into the abyss.

      So how are you folks coping? Me, when the smoke comes I stay indoors, turn on the a/c and an air purifier some friends loaned to me. When I go outside to take out the garbage or cook dinner in my outdoor kitchen I wear my N-95 mask. I cough a lot, too. My lungs will tighten up and ache when the WAQA readings hit 50, which according to the DOE is still kind-of-okay. They say that a WAQA reading of 100 is when it’s tough for “sensitive groups.” Screw that. Their calibrations have only a distant relationship to public health reality.

  2. brucesmith49 says:

    Editor’s Note:

    The following comment comes from State Representative JT Wilcox of the 2nd District, which includes Eatonville and much of JBLM:

    “We should all get committed to good forest practices in public lands. This is a public fire season. Almost no private lands were involved.”

    – State Representative JT Wilcox

  3. Jane says:

    Remember …I said ‘we chose’ where we ‘place’ ourselves for our own survival …you will be fine!

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Indeed we do. That said, I am advocating for a cleaner environment where I live. Almost everyplace has some problem, or danger. Here in the PNW we have fire and smoke. Houston has floods and now, mosquitoes I see.

  4. brucesmith49 says:

    Editor’s Note: Another comment from a MN reader via email:

    On 9/16/2017 7:37 PM, Pat Forman wrote:

    Thanks Bruce. I downloaded a free app for my iPhone called weather underground. It uses your current location or you can enter a location. Earlier today in Puyallup it registered unhealthy. Tonight it is registering unhealthy for sensitive groups.

    Even my dog is having breathing problems. I’m feeling really lousy

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. brucesmith49 says:

    Another comment via email:

    On 9/16/2017 5:47 PM, RC Akervick wrote:
    > Thanks for the update, Bruce. We were just talking about the smoke and wondering about the cause.
    > Bob

  6. brucesmith49 says:

    Editor’s Note; This comes from Jane and Steve via email:

    > On 9/26/2017 3:55 PM, Steve Hachfeld wrote:
    > My sister just returned home (Minnesota) from visiting our brother in Yuba City CA. for a week. She said the air is like a ‘light mist’ and stinks and eyes burning if outside for any length of time and horizon is blurred. Seems to be running down the whole coast line from the north…I thought of you! Take Care! Jane
    > Sent from my iPad

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