The North Olympic Peninsula is socked in, along with the rest of the state, with wildfire smoke from wildfires ravaging Oregon, California and central Washington, and conditions are not expected to improve much until Monday morning.
No place in the state of Washington appears to have escaped the giant plume of smoke. Especially, there were no clear areas in western Washington on Saturday, according to meteorologist Matthew Cullen with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
“This morning the smoke is really is all across western Washington,” Cullen said.
This smoke is coming from massive wildfires in Oregon, California and Washington.
More than 1 million acres have burned in Oregon, more than 3.1 million acres are charred in California, and at least 627,000 acres have burned in Washington state.
At least 26 people have died and hundreds of homes have been destroyed in fires in six states, national media reports. At least 19 deaths have been reported in California, six in Oregon and one in Washington state. Dozens are reported missing in Oregon.
Ninety-seven large fires have burned more than 6,200 square miles across the western states, and evacuation orders were in place for 40 large fires in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho and Utah, the National Interagency Fire Center said Saturday.
Clallam County’s pollution value was reported by the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency at 304 at 4 p.m. Saturday, down from a high of 347 Friday but still in the hazardous range.
Port Townsend also was at 303, while Cheeka Peak on the Makah Indian Reservation was at 358 and Neah Bay was at 288, slightly below hazardous in the very unhealthy range.
The smoke on the Peninsula was expected to worsen throughout Saturday and may improve somewhat Sunday, though Cullen warned that the offshore plume of smoke is very large and will not go away quickly.
The air quality for much of the Olympic Peninsula is forecast to remain in the hazardous range (301 to 500), very unhealthy range (201-300) or the unhealthy range (150-200) Sunday.
“There’s plenty of smoke out there that needs to be pushed out,” Cullen said.
A National Weather Service alert issued Friday afternoon said onshore winds will “tap a large area of smoke offshore pulling the smoke into Western Washington.” The alert remains in effect until 11 a.m. Monday.
In the hazardous range means that all people, whether sick or healthy, are urged to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid strenuous activity, close doors and windows, set air conditioners to recirculate and use HEPA air filters if possible.
“We recommend everyone stay inside with windows and doors closed. If you have a HEPA filter, running that can help additionally to clean your indoor air,” said Clallam County Health Officer Allison Unthank.
Seruqim and Port Angeles canceled their farmers markets, while Port Townsend continued its market on Saturday.
Jefferson County Health Officer Tom Locke said he wasn’t aware the market had gone on as planned, but said that healthy people can tolerate being out in the smoke for a while.
“To me it’s not a reckless thing. Some people will tolerate smoke quite well,” he said.
Locke said the smoke would mostly affect people with asthma, COPD or chronic heart disease. Asmathic people, people with [COPD] or chronic heart disease. Still, he said people should try to limit outdoor exercise.
“Under these conditions, you’re well-advised to limit your outdoor exposure and not do any outdoor exercise,” he said.
People with heart or lung disease, or those who have had a stroke, should consult their health care provider about leaving the area and wearing a properly-fitted respiratory mask if they must go outdoors. Burn bans are in place in both Clallam and Jefferson counties.
At Forks Hospital, no patients had come in yet Saturday afternoon seeking treatment for smoke-related respiratory problems, said aide Sherry Hollum.
“I’m surprised we haven’t had someone,” she said.
The PDN could not reach spokespeople at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles and at Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend.
Cullen said light rain is forecast in this area Monday, but it may be Monday evening before it arrives. The official NWS forecast calls for rain after 11 p.m. Monday. He said heavier rain showers are forecast for Tuesday, with 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch of rain forecast.
“It’s not a lot, but at least it will help,” he said.
The worst spots in the state for smoke Saturday were Kennewick (500), White Salmon (500), Walla Walla (439), Toppenish (427) and Cle Elum (397).
The Olympic Region Clean Air Agency considers a pollution value of 0-50 to be good; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 150 unhealthy for sensitive individuals, such as those with preexisting lung or heart ailments; 151-200, unhealthy for all; 201-300, very unhealthy; and 301 to 500 or more, hazardous for all.
The amount of smoke migrating north and east is huge, meteorologists said.
“Normally, it would be like magic,” with winds from the Pacific Ocean clearing out smoke but so much had pooled off-shore that the system was overwhelmed, said meteorologist Mike McFarland on Friday.
“The problem is that for the last three or four days, smoke in the region has been traveling northwest, so there is a puddle of pollution out there.”
A weather system is expected to move into the area Monday through Wednesday, bringing a chance of rain and clearing of wildfire smoke pollution.
Sports editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached at [email protected]