Spokane’s air quality reached unhealthy levels again Thursday as another heat wave crept into the area.
As fires burned in northeastern Washington and Canada, winds sent smoke into much of Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle , said Jeremy Wolf, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Spokane.
The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency measured the air quality level as unhealthy, with the index reaching 198 on Thursday evening, bordering on the “very unhealthy” category that starts at 201. The agency also issued an air quality alert Thursday set to last until 10 a.m. Monday, according to a news release from the agency.
In response, Spokane park officials closed the city pools for the day.
According to the release, the clean air agency recommends people stay indoors with doors and windows shut, keep air circulating throughout the house and avoid candles, air sprays or anything that could add to the pollution.
Wolf said the weekend will likely see smoke in the area as fires continue to grow. Some clean air could come in if northeastern winds push it toward the Cascades and part of the Columbia Basin.
“I don’t think it’s going to completely clear out during the weekend,” Wolf said.
The high reached 97 degrees Thursday, while the weather service expected temperatures of 98 degrees Friday and 99 Saturday. The service issued another heat warning for the area in response.
Spokane has currently tied its record for the most days within a year to reach or exceed 100 degrees, so Saturday could break that record.
“It’s going to be close,” Wolf said.
Relief may come Sunday and Monday, with the weather service predicting the temperatures to drop to the upper 80s Sunday and then lower 80s Monday.
The dry conditions are likely to continue, however, with an exceptional drought plaguing Eastern Washington. According to data in the U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday, 38% of Washington is currently in an exceptional drought, including Spokane, Lincoln, Adams and Whitman counties.
The drought monitor showed 47% of Washington in an extreme drought, which is slightly more than the 46% from last week. About 2.8 million people live in the drought areas, according to the monitor’s estimate; the population of the state is about 7.8 million.
Valerie Thayler, National Weather Service meteorologist in Spokane, said from Jan. 1 to Aug. 11, Spokane saw 4.97 inches of rain. That’s the third-driest for that period on record. It follows 4.65 inches in 1924 and 4.93 inches in 1929. The average rainfall for the same period is about 9 inches, Thayler said.
Most of those 4.97 inches fell in January. When looking at Feb. 1 to Aug. 11, only 2.15 inches of rain fell , Thayler said.
“We have the driest February to Aug. 11 on record,” Thayler said.
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