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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Spokane region sees better afternoon air

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 25, 2015

UPDATE: 5:20 p.m.

Air quality monitors showed a improved air quality through the afternoon today. The air quality index showed moderately polluted air late this afternoon.

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

Spokane’s air quality continued to improve as daytime warning removed a temperature inversion that had trapped smoke near the ground. The last reading at 1:20 p.m. showed that Spokane was seeing moderate air quality, which was down from unhealthy this morning.

UPDATE: 9:30 a.m.

Air quality in Spokane started out in the unhealthy range for all persons this morning after an overnight temperature inversion worked to trap smoke in the lowest part of the atmosphere. The air quality index stood at 154 at 8:20 a.m. and improved to 143 by 9:20 a.m. As the inversion dissipates through daytime warming, the air quality may improve further. The air is now considered unhealthy for persons with health concerns, which is one category better than unhealthy for all persons. At 4 a.m., the daily weather balloon released by the National Weather Service measured a temperature of 58 degrees at ground level warming to 70 degrees at about 800 feet above ground. Normally, air cools with elevation.

Original story

A pall of smoke hung over the Inland Northwest again on Monday, creating unhealthy air quality as wildfires continued to rage across the region.

Three of the past four days have brought unhealthy air to the region.

The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency reported some improvement by Monday evening.

The air quality index in Spokane was 188 as of 10 a.m. Monday – well above the threshold of 150 for air quality that’s unhealthy for all people. The index stood at 141 on Monday afternoon and 128 Monday night. Both later readings are in the category of unhealthy for people with lung or other physical problems.

The forecast is calling for areas of smoke to persist through the weekend.

Dangerous fire weather is expected again today due to gusty winds, low humidity and warm temperatures.

People sensitive to smoke are advised to stay indoors, and everyone should limit exposure to the outdoor air when pollution levels are high.

The air quality index converts the concentration of air pollutants into a standardized number to convey the relative danger. Smoke, dust, ozone and carbon monoxide are monitored, with their concentrations converted to an index number.

More activities were being curtailed because of the bad air.

Spokane Parks and Recreation canceled swim lessons Monday and closed all city pools. Those lessons will be made up on Friday, the department said on Twitter.

EWU canceled morning football practice Monday, and high school sports practices were canceled.

Spokane Valley ordered the closure of its Park Road and Terrace View pools through Friday. Spokane Valley still is hoping to open Park Road and Valley Mission pools this weekend and during the three-day Labor Day weekend on Sept. 5 through 7.

The National Weather Service reported that a strong temperature inversion set up early Monday; a daily weather balloon released at 4 a.m. found a temperature of 51 degrees at ground level, while the air aloft was at 71 degrees.

Normally, air gets cooler as you go higher into the sky. An inversion of cooler air causes smoke and other pollution to be trapped near the ground.

Not surprisingly, the worst air quality in the region was reported at Omak, Washington, which is surrounded by wildfires. The Washington state Department of Health recommends the use of respirator masks that are marked as N95 or N100. They look similar to paper dust masks, but are designed to trap tiny particles. These masks have two straps – one for above the ears and one for below. They fit snugly against the face.

Standard paper dust masks, which have a single strap, and surgical masks offer no protection. Bandanas and other cloths are useless as well, officials said.

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