OLYMPIA — Outdoor runners, take the morning off.
Residents of Clallam and Jefferson counties were urged Tuesday to limit their time outdoors or stay inside altogether while British Columbia’s giant patch of wildfire cloud continues, as expected, to affect the air quality over Western Washington, an area already feeling the impact of the state’s own wildfires.
Olympic Clean Air Agency Executive Director Fran McNair said the air monitoring agency was recommending that runners and other exercise buffs avoid exerting themselves outdoors this morning, at least, and that children, the elderly and individuals with respiratory illnesses such as asthma or limit or avoid their time outdoors.
But state environmental officials were predicting westerly winds would trigger an improving trend in the breathability index by this evening from Tuesday’s air-quality readings.
“Use common sense,” McNair said Tuesday.
“I was a runner, and you breathe deeply.
“Hopefully, by [today] the conditions will be better, and if the conditions are moderate, go for it.”
ORCAA said on its website at www.orcaa.org/ that air quality as measured at the Port Angeles monitoring station on East Fifth Street had a Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) very-unhealthy score of 223 Tuesday morning.
The readings are at tinyurl.com/PDN-Quality.
Under a very unhealthy score, “everyone should stay indoors, do only light activities and keep windows closed if it is not too hot,” according to ORCAA.
The rating of “very unhealthy” means that some healthy people could have breathing problems and that those with lung or heart disease have an increased risk of worsening of the disease. Everyone is counseled to stay indoors, do light activities, and keep windows closed if possible.
Port Townsend, measured from a station on San Juan Avenue, had a Tuesday morning WAQA unhealthy score of 170, which recommends people limit their time outside.
The rating of “unhealthy” means that many more people than average could have breathing problems or worsening symptoms of lung or heart disease. Everyone should limit time outdoors and avoid exercising outdoors.
Infants, children pregnant women and adults older than age 65 should also stay indoors.
Port Angeles’ reading had already dropped to a still very unhealthy score of 208 by 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, while Port Townsend had crept down to 168, still unhealthy.
The smoke has been trapped on the Olympic Peninsula counties — also including Mason, Thurston, Pacific and Grays Harbor —by a high pressure system in the Pacific.
“We should expect some onshore flow, some westerly winds will pick up and blow of lot of this smoke out in Western Washington,” Farren Herron-Thorpe, a modeling and emissions inventory scientist with the state Department of Ecology, said Tuesday afternoon.
“Sometime in the afternoon or early evening [today], it should start to clear up.”
McNair was hoping air quality would improve to a 51 to 100 moderate range, under which only people with asthma, a respiratory infection, lung or heart disease or have had a stroke should limit their outdoor activities.
The 101 to 150 range applies to air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups.
“Both Port Townsend and Port Angeles are getting better, but we are waiting for those breezes to in to clean things out,” she said.
ORCAA Senior Air Monitoring Specialist Odelle Hadley said smoke from the Maple Fire in the Hamma Hamma area along Hood Canal is almost non-existent in Clallam County.
That’s starting to change as the fires from Canada and Washington state continue to burn.
“When people ask where the smoke is coming from, it’s coming from everywhere,” she said.
“Hopefully, we’ll see a little improvement [today].”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].