Department of Ecology News Release - October 5, 2012

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Air quality still degraded in some areas, but better in most

OLYMPIA - Fine particle monitors this morning (Friday, Oct. 5) show “unhealthy” air quality in Wenatchee, “unhealthy for sensitive groups” in Ellensburg, and “moderate” air in Leavenworth, Darrington, North Bend, Clarkston, Aberdeen, and Shelton, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

All other monitors are reporting “good” air quality, though data from the U.S. Forest Service’s temporary monitors have not been reported since Thursday afternoon.

Most areas saw some clearing Thursday afternoon. In Western Washington, haze could be seen overhead but did not mix down to the surface in significant amounts. Satellite imagery shows smoke well over Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Pacific coast. Smoke from Idaho and Montana wildfires was reaching the extreme southeastern parts of the state. Expect several areas south of Everett to see some smoke when the overnight inversion breaks this morning. Similar smoke behavior can be expected in and around Shelton, Aberdeen, Longview, Vancouver, Clarkston, and Walla Walla.

However, winds will remain strong enough that it’s unlikely the air quality in those areas will deteriorate to worse than “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” A red flag warning for dry east winds remains in effect across the Cascades and northwestern Olympic Peninsula; these winds could accelerate fire growth through Sunday morning.

Communities close to wildfires could experience stronger smoke impacts. Night and morning smoke can be expected, followed by some afternoon clearing.

The weekend forecast calls for similar conditions. Winds are expected to relax a bit further. Mixing heights may reduce because of an inversion, but computer models don’t indicate widespread air stagnation.

The National Weather Service issued an Air Quality Alert for Douglas, Chelan and Kittitas counties through noon Monday.

There continues to be a burn ban east of the Cascade crest. The Governor’s proclamation allows for local fire departments to issue written permits that approve specific burning activities.  Please work with your local fire jurisdiction and your Ecology burn team staff to get the needed written authorization for specific agricultural burns. In some areas, air quality concerns or local fire danger may preclude burning during this extraordinary wildfire event.

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Media Contact: Seth Preston, Ecology communications manager, 360-407-6848; cell, 360-584-5744; email seth.preston@ecy.wa.gov

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