Air quality in Washington state, 20 August 2018. Smoke pollution from wildfires in British Columbia is 'harazardous' over much of the state. Graphic: Washington State Department of Ecology

By Scott Sistek
20 August 2018

SEATTLE (KOMO News) – Air quality in some areas of Western Washington has degraded from "unhealthy" to "very unhealthy," especially in the South Sound as wildfire smoke from British Columbia continues to pour into the region.

As of 8 a.m. Monday, monitoring sites in Tacoma, Auburn, and Port Angeles reported air quality particulate readings over 200, considered "very unhealthy" by air quality managers, while much of the rest of the Puget Sound region ranged from "unhealthy for sensitive groups" to "unhealthy for all."

The Department of Ecology recommends that when air quality is in the "Very Unhealthy" category that everyone should stay indoors and avoid all strenuous activity.

High pressure in British Columbia is blowing some moderately strong north/northeast winds out from the Fraser River Valley which is helping mix up the air quality a bit in parts of the North Sound, but also increasing the fire danger. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish Counties, the North Coast and areas along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The warning means any wildfires that become triggered could spread rapidly.

Elsewhere those north/northeast winds are only making matters worse, tapping into a massive plume of smoke from hundreds of wildfires burning in British Columbia and blowing it our way. It's also creating a hotter pattern with temperatures expected to reach well into the 80s amid the smoke, making for uncomfortable homes where no air conditioning means deciding between relief from the heat or relief from the smoke.

Low visibility has also created delays at Sea-Tac Airport where air traffic management controls remain in effect.

It's considerably worse in Eastern Washington where several areas are reporting downright hazardous air quality readings. Spokane was in the hazardous air quality category with particulate readings around 400. Strong winds gusting to 20-35 mph are no help over there, and only exacerbating the wildfire danger there as well with Red Flag Warnings across much of central and eastern Washington. [more]

Smoke degrades air quality to 'very unhealthy' for parts of Puget Sound region

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