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Sunday, September 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington

‘You have today to prepare’: Massive smoke cloud approaches Washington

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 10, 2020

A “super massive” cloud of smoke will travel east Friday, bringing unhealthy conditions, according to the Washington Emergency Management Division.  (Washington Emergency Management Division)
A “super massive” cloud of smoke will travel east Friday, bringing unhealthy conditions, according to the Washington Emergency Management Division. (Washington Emergency Management Division)

A “super massive cloud of smoke” approached Washington state Thursday and was set to bring a potentially hazardous haze to Eastern Washington by Friday.

“You have today to prepare. Let your family and friends know,” the Washington Emergency Management Division wrote in a Thursday Facebook post.

Winds are pulling thick smoke from the Western Washington, Oregon and California fires to the east side of the state, said National Weather Service meteorologist Charlotte Dewey.

Spokane’s air quality Friday was expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. Saturday and Sunday, air quality could worsen to “very unhealthy” or “hazardous,” the agency said in a news release.

The Emergency Management Division instructed Washingtonians to shop for essentials Thursday, stay home if possible Friday, check air quality forecasts and to filter air at home. For low cost, Washingtonians can secure a furnace filter to the back of a box fan with a bungee cord and run the fan in the house throughout the day.

“This was a vigorous cold front. And I look back at what caused all this, it was this cold front,” said Andy Brown, meteorologist at NWS.

An unusual and powerful cold front from Canada pushed through Washington, fanning fires and leading to massive destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres, Brown said. The cold winds met with dry grass and sage fostered during a particularly dry summer, he said, creating quick-burning fuel.

Brown said there is a “tremendous amount” of smoke coming from Oregon and California, but the amount of smoke that will reach Eastern Washington is hard to predict, though it will be less than residents have seen previously in those two states.

Dewey said not to expect burnt orange skies, but that Spokane will be hazy, it’ll smell like smoke, and “you probably won’t be able to see blue sky.”

“It may look like a dreary cool day but it’s not going to be cool,” Dewey said.

The weekend will bring warm, dry weather, she said. Dewey said traditionally, a shift in patterns in mid- to late September will end the fire season, but he doesn’t see it slowing down for now.

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