Update: Current smoke outlook
Advisory extended to Friday
Last updated 9/16/2020 at 12:02pm
Update 9/16 11:55 a.m.
The state Dept. of Ecology has extended the Air Quality Alert until noon Friday, although locally the air seems a lot less chewy (not a technical term) than it was before Tuesday. And it is only unhealthy currently, as opposed to outright hazardous.
Good news: The Natonal Weather Service has co-opted the data from PurpleAir.com, which uses cheaper, but plentiful, air monitors. They've put up a useful new fire and smoke map at https://fire.airnow.gov/?lat=47.942048879058405&lng=-119.00102912603315&zoom=10 . That link should take you to our area.
If you're having trouble breathing in the smoke, try wearing an N95 rates mask, if you can find one. They do help. Cloth masks don't do much against the fine particulates in the smoke.
Update 9/14 1 p.m.
The National Weather Service in Spokane says the air quality alert issued by the Washington Department of Ecology has been extended through noon on Friday, Sept. 18.
"Region wide smoke will continue through the rest of the week as an extensive area of smoke from Western US wildfires continues to impact
the region," the alert states. "Air quality across the region could vary from moderate to hazardous.
"Pollutants in smoke can cause burning eyes...runny nose...aggravate heart and lung diseases...and aggravate other serious health problems. Limit outdoor activities and keep children indoors if it is smoky. Please follow medical advice if you have a heart or lung condition.
"For additional information on wildland fire smoke impacting Washington visit the Washington smoke blog at http://wasmoke.blogspot.com and for current Washington air quality levels, visit https://enviwa.ecology.wa.gov/home/map. You may also contact your local air quality agency.
It currently looks as though we might not see much relief from smoke until Monday or maybe Tuesday, the state Dept. of Ecology's smoke blogger Ranil Dhammapala just wrote (noon Sunday), helpfully posting a satellite image with annotations to explain where the fresh air is now.
"It will be Monday before much of western WA and the central and northeastern foothills of the Cascades see substantial relief. For far eastern WA, plan for little relief before Tuesday," Dhammapala wrote.
You can check DOE's Smoke Blog, which is woefully inadequate for this area because Ecology won't install air quality monitors here (note their map's huge hole in the middle of the state), at https://wasmoke.blogspot.com/2020/09/where-are-you-when-we-need-you-most-o.html.
The blog is helpful in understanding our current situation, and is a good resource to check whenever fire season is in full swing.
For data statewide, including the Grand Coulee Dam area, check https://www.purpleair.com/map?opt=1/mAQI/a10/cC0#11.45/47.9335/-119.0206. The local Rotary Club has installed four monitors here.
Those monitors report Air Quality Index numbers on the US EPA PM2.5 standard or any of several others you can choose.
The current smoke inundation is from a buildup over the Pacific Ocean of wildfire smoke from California and Oregon finally making it to land.
The buildup covered over 936,000 square miles at one point before sifting over Washington and creeping up the Columbia Basin.
Okanogan County Emergency Managment reported Sunday afternoon: "A change in the weather pattern may bring some relief to the area on Monday, but smoky conditions will continue to create reduced air quality into all of next week. Public Health officials are urging people to remain inside during periods of poor air quality, and to wear a mask when going outside or traveling. If you are in need of a KN95 mask, you can contact your local city halls for distribution."
The air quality is so poor that health authorities advise using a portable air cleaner with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter or a DIY box fan filter. To make your own, you can watch this WA Department of Ecology video: https://youtu.be/4qr1Aj6Di7w , or a Spanish version here: https://youtu.be/paDqiIZUECw , or another video from the Colville Tribes here: https://youtu.be/ukyF2xm8cws .
You can check Okanogan Public Health's latest Facebook posts at https://bit.ly/3midVAV .
To watch the progression of this massive smoke cloud from space, click here: https://go.nasa.gov/2ZzJwEr