After days of oppressive smoke, thunderstorms that passed through Eastern Washington gave Spokane a bit of a break from unhealthy air on Wednesday morning.
As of noon on Wednesday, air was at 100 in the air quality index, or just in the moderate range.
That means the air quality is good enough that it should not have any health effect on the general population. A very small number of people, especially those sensitive to smoke, could have moderate health effects.
The fortunate break came from showers and thunderstorms that rolled through northeastern Washington on Tuesday.
“Improvement was more than we expected,” said Rocco Pelatti, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Spokane. He said that storms mixed air in the atmosphere, causing cooler and humid air to enter the area and displace the smoke.
The storms and more humid air also caused fires burning in Washington, Oregon and California to produce less smoke than anticipated, leading to the slightly improved air quality.
Pelatti said that more showers and a cold front should continue to decrease smoke output as we head into the weekend. Winds should also start blowing toward the east and blow out that residual smoke lingering in the area.
NWS Spokane predicts that temperatures will cool down after Thursday with a relatively low high of 77 degrees on Sunday after a record hot summer.
But smoke is hard to predict, and Pelatti said that the over 1,000 lightning strikes that accompanied thunderstorms this week could start more wildfires.
With the higher rain and humidity, these “wet starts” could be easier to contain than the drier wildfires we’ve seen so far this summer.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that smoke should continue improving this week, but there are so many factors that could change,” said Pelatti.