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Friday, October 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Breathe easy, Spokane: New wave of smoke should barely hurt air quality

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 29, 2020

Modeling from the National Weather Service in Boise shows smoke from fires in Northern California expected to move over the Pacific Northwest starting Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. Forecasters said not to worry, however, as the smoke is high in the atmosphere and should have a minimal effect on surface air quality.  (National Weather Service)
Modeling from the National Weather Service in Boise shows smoke from fires in Northern California expected to move over the Pacific Northwest starting Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. Forecasters said not to worry, however, as the smoke is high in the atmosphere and should have a minimal effect on surface air quality. (National Weather Service)

Another wave of smoke is expected to blanket the Pacific Northwest this week, but don’t hold your breath: Forecasters say it’s high in the atmosphere and should have a minimal effect on surface air quality.

The smoke from fires in Northern California was traveling up the Oregon coast and expected to reach Seattle as early as Tuesday night. Modeling from the National Weather Service showed the smoke would swirl clockwise through North Idaho and toward the Boise area.

Ron Miller, a meteorologist at the weather service’s Spokane office, said the smoke might creep over Eastern Washington on Wednesday and linger until the weekend. But it won’t be like earlier this month, when smoke from Oregon and Washington fires blocked out the sun and sent residents hunkering indoors in search of cleaner air.

A strong temperature inversion should keep most of the smoke trapped at higher elevations, but forecasters said enough particles will come down to push parts of the state, including Spokane, into the second-best or “moderate” range on the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality index. A few areas might briefly reach the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category.

In Spokane, Miller said, the most noticeable effect will be a milky haze over otherwise blue skies.

“Right now, we’re not expecting any kind of impacts on air quality – certainly nothing like we saw a few weeks ago,” he said. “But it will get a little hazy.”

People at higher elevations could experience more smoke, but there will be “hardly any impacts” east of the Cascade Range, according to the Washington Smoke blog, which is run by local, state and federal air quality experts.

The smoke could obscure views of the aurora borealis, but Washingtonians can look forward to some “resplendent” sunsets, according to the blog.

Temperatures in Spokane are forecast to remain well above average, with highs of 79 and 80 degrees through the weekend.

Spokane on average has seen a high of 66 degrees on Oct. 1, Miller said. The record for that date is 86 degrees, set in 1997.

“We’re getting closer to those records but not expected to break any, at this point,” he said.

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