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Saturday, September 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

Sunday’s bad air set record in Spokane; unhealthy readings expected to stick around until weekend

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 15, 2020

Downtown skywalks over Main Avenue give pedestrians safe harbor from the dense wildfire smoke that blankets downtown Spokane in a haze on Monday.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Downtown skywalks over Main Avenue give pedestrians safe harbor from the dense wildfire smoke that blankets downtown Spokane in a haze on Monday. (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The smoke blanketing Spokane is expected to linger all week as Spokane’s hazardous air set another record on Sunday. Monday wasn’t much better.

The Spokane Clean Air Agency measured the average air quality on Sunday at 479 out of 500 on the air quality index. Previous to this weekend, the highest daily average was 257 in 2018, also due to wildfire smoke.

The hourly air quality index Monday morning was 414 at 7:35 a.m. The numbers remained relatively static during the day and by Monday evening the number was 403. Anything over 100 is unhealthy for some groups. An index over 150 is considered unhealthy for all people. Readings in the hazardous category – above 300 – started on Saturday in Spokane. Saturday’s 24-hour average index broke the record in the city at 368.

Spokane's air quality index entered the hazardous category on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020 and remained so on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
Spokane’s air quality index entered the hazardous category on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020 and remained so on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

There will likely be small improvement in smokiness Tuesday, but nothing significant, said Charlotte Dewey, meteorologist at the National Weather Service Spokane.

“I mean it may lift the visibility and the smokiness a little bit, but we’re not looking for anything to improve very much,” Dewey said. “It’s going to be positive that people will see that improvement but it’s not going to go all away.”

Temperatures are affected by smoke with highs Monday forecast in the mid-70s, Dewey said.

Tuesday and Wednesday are forecast to be dry with a weather system that likely will continue to bring smoke into the region.

“We’re still under this weather pattern where we’re pulling in winds from the west and that’s where a lot of wildfires are,” Dewey said. “We’re going to continue to pull in smoke. It’s just not improving very much.”

A better chance of air quality improvement will likely come this weekend, Dewey said.

“We’re looking for a low pressure system that’s going to move into the Pacific Northwest,” Dewey said. “That likely will bring some rain showers with it.”

The weather service lists a 20% chance of rain in Spokane on Friday and a 50% chance on Saturday.

“That should kind of help wash out the air,” Dewey said. “This weekend is definitely going to be a big improvement if the weather pattern stays.”

The city of Spokane delayed trash service to customers whose trash is collected by smaller trucks requiring two workers – including one who remains outside of the truck. The city restricts some outdoor work of its employees when air quality is hazardous.

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