Though the eerie orange glow lessened Sunday, the air quality in Port Angeles worsened as smoke from massive wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington continued to roil across the North Olympic Peninsula.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, the air quality count in Port Angeles was 313 particulate micrograms per cubic meter, a measurement used by the state Department of Ecology that calculates particles smaller than 2.5 microns. It was slightly worse than Saturday’s count, which lingered between 303 and 305 most of the day.The worst of the smoke was late Friday, when the count hit 347 in Port Angeles.
All of those numbers are considered to be in the hazardous range. People are advised to avoid going outside as much as possible and to keep doors and windows closed while the air remains hazardous.
Meanwhile, Port Townsend improved from counts above 300 Saturday to 271 Sunday morning, but the air steadily deteriorated all day. By 4 p.m., the air quality had crept back up to 306, according to the Washington Air Quality Advisory.
Cheeka Peak on the Makah Indian Reservation had the worst air reading on the Peninsula with a count of 346 at 4 p.m. Sunday, with Neah Bay at 291, at the upper end of the very unhealthy range, meaning people should avoid any kind of strenuous activity outdoors.
“We really start to see acute health affects when we get above 300 and especially 400,” said Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke.
Numerous cities in Washington were over 400 Sunday. They included Spokane (448), White Salmon (469), Chelan (457), Vancouver (485) and Cle Elum (500, the maximum number recorded by the Washington Air Quality Advisory).
The National Weather Service may extend a smoke alert issued Friday past 11 a.m. today. Rain is expected to come into the area this afternoon to offer some relief from the smoke, especially tonight and into Tuesday morning.The smoke initially was blown offshore last week by easterly winds, creating a huge plume over the Pacific Ocean created by the smoke from 4.5 million acres burning in California, Oregon and Washington. Now the smoke is blowing inland, carried by westerly winds.
“The good news is the amount of smoke [offshore] is thinning out,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Michalski. “The bad news is, there’s still smoke traps near the surface.”
Michalski said the weather service may make a decision today to extend that smoke alert past the original 11 a.m. timeframe with unhealthy to very unhealthy air lingering for a bit longer.
“Based on how bad the smoke is today, I expect the air quality to still be poor past that [11 a.m.] deadline,” he said.
Rain is forecast to arrive on the Peninsula sometime this afternoon, with a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of rain tonight. Accumulation by Tuesday morning could be between one-tenth to one-quarter of an inch, Michalski said.
He warned that people may not see the smoke leave immediately after the rain system arrives.
“The rain should help,” Michalski said. “I wouldn’t expect it to be instantaneous.”
He added that continued winds blowing north could continue to bring smoke into the area, depending on how out of control the fires remain.
But he was optimistic air quality will improve during the week.
“We’re getting a pretty good mixing,” he said. “We’re expecting things to improve.”
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached by email at [email protected].