Department of Ecology News Release - October 3, 2012

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Next two days bring mixed bag of smoke, dust and clearing

SPOKANE - While Washington residents were dusting off their winter coats for the onset of colder fall temperatures, many of them experienced some cleaner air as well. However, the vagaries of the wind could change all that, according to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology). 

Several air quality monitors picked up blowing dust across the Columbia Basin on Tuesday night and this morning, including in Moses Lake, Kennewick and Mesa. Moses Lake and Kennewick are experiencing air that is “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” while Mesa has “moderate” air quality today.  It is likely these locations also are seeing smoke from a new fire in the Omak area.

Air quality in Spokane and Colville is currently “good,” but those communities saw some dust too. 

The town of Liberty in Kittitas County is recording “hazardous” air due to heavy smoke this morning. Wenatchee, Toppenish, Goldendale, Cashmere and Quincy all are showing “moderate” air quality conditions due to wildfire smoke.

Winds will change today and come from the north/northeast and remain moderately strong through the next few days. These winds will carry smoke from Idaho and Montana into Spokane and the Palouse by Thursday morning. According to Ecology air quality forecaster Ranil Dhammapala, computer models show wildfire smoke could travel west over the Cascades into areas south of Seattle and over the Pacific Ocean. “This pattern, with some afternoon clearing, is likely to persist through Friday at least,” Dhammapala said.

A red flag warning for fire growth continues in extreme southwest Washington today. In fact, fire warnings blanket all of Western Washington through Thursday night, due to dry, windy conditions and above normal temperatures. In Eastern Washington, Gov. Gregoire’s burn ban is still in effect until midnight Sunday night, Oct. 7.

The National Weather Service issued an Air Quality Alert for much of the east slopes of the Cascades through noon Thursday.

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