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 cities—the Eagle Creek Fire has forced evacuations to within fifteen miles of Portland, Oregon—fire 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.
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: