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Sunday, September 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Air quality in Spokane moves out of ‘hazardous’ range

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 17, 2020

A rafter of a half dozen turkeys is spotted during its breakfast feed on Sunday within the smoky haze in Spokane. The air quality remained well into the hazardous category and was 495 at the time of this photo. The air quality dipped below hazardous early Wednesday morning.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
A rafter of a half dozen turkeys is spotted during its breakfast feed on Sunday within the smoky haze in Spokane. The air quality remained well into the hazardous category and was 495 at the time of this photo. The air quality dipped below hazardous early Wednesday morning. (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)

For the first time in four days, those outside in Spokane weren’t breathing “hazardous” air Wednesday.

But it was still “very unhealthy,” progressing slightly to “unhealthy” by the end of the day.

The 1-hour averaged air quality index in Spokane moved from “hazardous” to “very unhealthy” about 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Air quality remained in the mid-200 or “very unhealthy” range for most of the day, dropping to “unhealthy” at 7:30 p.m. with a reading of 197. The “very unhealthy” classification of the 500-point scale is from 201 to 300.

The air quality index in Spokane fell into the unhealthy category late on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, for the first time since Saturday.
The air quality index in Spokane fell into the unhealthy category late on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, for the first time since Saturday.

The readings are based on the concentration of particulate matter in the air.

The “very unhealthy” classification means “everyone may experience more serious health effects,” according to the Spokane Clean Air Agency.

The 24-hour air quality index for Tuesday was 315, the lowest since Friday, but the fourth day in a row with readings in the hazardous category. Before Saturday, Spokane never reached the hazardous level for a 24-hour average since records began in 1999.

The smoke is expected to lift somewhat over the weekend with a cold front bringing stronger winds and potential for rain, said Jennifer Simmons, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Spokane office.

Temperatures Thursday and Friday are expected to be in the mid-70s, with smoke coverage keeping temperatures cooler.

As the cold front moves in Friday, breezy winds are forecast with potential for brief and possibly heavy rain, Simmons said.

On Saturday, temperatures will likely drop to the low-70s with stronger winds and gusts of about 15 mph.

Even stronger gusts of 20 to 30 mph in the Columbia Basin and the Palouse will help move smoke, Simmons said.

How much the smoke in the area will be reduced is dependent on preventing new wildfires from sparking in Washington, as well as the progress fighting fires in Oregon and California, where much of the smoke in Spokane originated, Simmons said.

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