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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane still affected by heat, air quality warnings

Wildfire smoke shrouds the South Hill as a Spokane Fire Department engine rolls across the Maple Street Bridge, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Spokane. Unhealthy air quality is expected to hang on in the region until Thursday.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Smoke and hot temperatures continued to choke Spokane on Tuesday, with bad air quality, excessive heat and thunderstorms promising a turbulent week for the region.

Todd Carter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane, said the smoke would stick around for the next two days. The weather service issued an unhealthy air quality alert for most of Eastern Washington effective until at least noon Thursday.

“As you wake up and look at the sky today, you’re gonna see the smoke,” Carter said. 

According to a news release from the Spokane Clean Air Agency, Spokane for the first time this year saw smoke so thick it exceeded the 24-hour, health-based standard for fine particles, or 100 on the air quality index. 

The air quality index reached 146 on Saturday, and then went to 155 on Sunday, according to the release.

The agency warned the air quality would have health effects on everyone, with more sensitive groups at risk of more serious effects, the release said. 

These effects include trouble breathing, headaches and dizziness, coughing and fatigue. Groups considered more sensitive to the low air quality include people with asthma, people who tested positive for COVID-19, people over the age of 65, pregnant individuals and people with a history of heat attack or stroke.

“It is vital that individuals check current air quality conditions and take the necessary steps to protect their health. Inhaling smoke is not good for anyone, even healthy people. We recommend that people who are sensitive to poor air quality stay indoors and keep their indoor air as clean as possible,” said Dr. Francisco Velázquez, Interim Health Officer for Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD), in the news release.

Some relief from the smoke may come after thunderstorms and gusty winds sweep through north central and northeastern Washington, Carter said.

While these storms would likely bring brief rain, Carter said high winds and occasional lightning strikes may pose a problem for firefighting efforts on the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek 2 fires burning near Winthrop.

Carter said they expected generally calmer winds Tuesday with possible 10-15 mph winds in the evening. As the storms generated, Carter said, they could bring 40 to 50 mph winds that would also likely move the smoke out of Spokane by the weekend. 

Another alert to watch out for is the heat warning issued by the weather service, which was in effect from 11 a.m. Tuesday until at least 11 p.m. Wednesday. The temperatures Tuesday were expected to get to the upper-90s for most of Central and Eastern Washington as well as North and north central Idaho.

Carter said they expected the temperatures this weekend to drop to the 80s, bringing some relief from the heat, but not without gusty winds. 

“Any time you see us go from the upper 90s to low 80s, you’re going to see a lot of wind,” Carter said. “I would call it a crazy week for sure.”