PORT ANGELES — Wildfire smoke remained widespread on the North Olympic Peninsula on Tuesday as another plume of haze made its way into the region, the National Weather Service said.
A modicum of relief was expected this evening as marine air begins to move onshore, said Jay Albrecht, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“The good news is we are expecting a change in the weather pattern to start tomorrow evening,” Albrecht said in a Tuesday interview.
“It’s going to take a little while for everything to clear up.”
An air quality alert was in effect for the North Olympic Peninsula and most of Western Washington through 5 p.m. today.
The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency downgraded the air quality in Port Angeles from “very unhealthy” to “hazardous” Tuesday afternoon.
Port Townsend air was classified as “very unhealthy” Tuesday.
The air quality was hazardous in both cities Monday.
A new plume of dense smoke from fires burning in north Chelan and west Okanogan counties had moved into Snohomish County by noon Tuesday.
The “really bad batch” of smoke was expected to settle on the east side of the North Olympic Peninsula later Tuesday and begin to dissipate this evening, Albrecht said.
“It looked like the peak area will be from Everett to Bremerton to possibly Port Townsend, with the Port Angeles area kind of being on the northern edge of the really bad smoke,” Albrecht said after reviewing the latest computer models.
“The eastern half of the readership there is going to have the most problems with the smoke.”
Albrecht added that it is “going to be smoky everywhere” today, including the West End of Clallam and Jefferson counties.
“It’s just a matter of degree,” Albrecht said.
Albrecht said it would take a few days for the winds to drive out the smoke from domestic wildfires and background smoke that has accumulated from British Columbia wildfires.
If the long-range forecasts holds true, Albrecht said the skies should be clear of smoke by Sunday.
“It will be a gradual process,” he said.
Meanwhile, health officials advised the public to limit outdoor activities when the air quality is poor.
Stuart Whitford, Jefferson County environmental health director, offered the following suggestions:
• Stay indoors and keep windows closed if possible.
• Run air conditioners on re-circulate.
• Use indoor air cleaners with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.
• Wear an N-95 respirator mask outdoors. In Jefferson County, masks are available at Jefferson County Public Health, 615 Sheridan St., Port Townsend. No information was available Tuesday from Clallam County.
People with chronic diseases should consult their health care provider before wearing a mask, Whitford said.
For more tips, call Clallam County Health and Human Services at 360-417-2303 or Jefferson County Public Health at 360-385-9400.
“I think last year got people used to this [smoke],” Whitford said in a Tuesday interview.
“People are more educated than they were last year about what to do.”
Whitford added: “I’m just happy that we’re just dealing with smoke and not fires in Jefferson County.”
The state Department of Natural Resources has rated fire danger as “high” in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Olympic Medical Center spokeswoman Bobby Beeman said there had been no noticeable increase in hospital admissions for patients with respiratory ailments.
“We’ve had a couple of people in, asthma patients needing extra breathing treatments, but nothing overly significant,” Jefferson Healthcare spokeswoman Amy Yaley said.
Smoky air prompted several North Olympic Peninsula high schools and Peninsula College to move fall sports practices indoors.
“It’s everywhere, and its affecting every single school,” Port Townsend High School Athletic Director Lysa Falge said after attending a Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) District 3 meeting in Tacoma on Tuesday.
“We’ve got all coaches on hold and all practice facilities open to share with each other.”
Athletic directors at Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Sequim and Chimacum high schools each confirmed Tuesday that practices had been moved indoors.
Forks High School football coach Emil West said the team planned to practice outside Tuesday but would pay more attention to those with asthma.
Athletic directors at other North Olympic Peninsula high schools were not immediately available for comment.
Under WIAA rules, football players must participate in 12 practices to become eligible for games.
While an indoor practice meets the criteria, it provides less value than an outdoor football practice for teams gearing up for the season, Falge said.
“That’s where there seems to be the bigger concern about football,” Falge said.
The Peninsula College men’s and women’s soccer teams will train in the gymnasium until the air quality improves, Associate Dean for Athletics and Student Programs Rick Ross said in a Monday email.
The Pirates are scheduled to open the 2018 soccer season at the Northwest Athletic Conference Friendlies Thursday and Friday at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].