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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane air quality takes a turn for the worse as Methow Valley experiences unhealthiest air quality in nation

UPDATED: Thu., July 22, 2021

Spokane residents got a taste of smoke Thursday from the numerous wildfires burning across the West, but the Methow Valley got the whole meal.

The scenic valley where state Route 20 courses through the tourism town of Winthrop was hit by the worst air quality in the country on Thursday morning.

Winthrop’s air quality readings reached an astonishing 405 in the air quality index, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow tracker.

That put the Methow Valley well into the “hazardous” range of the air quality index.

Under hazardous air quality conditions, the Washington Department of Ecology recommends everyone should stay indoors, do only light activities and keep windows closed if it is not too hot.

Downtown Spokane in comparison was at 120 in the air quality index on Thursday afternoon, making it unhealthy for sensitive groups category, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. Earlier in the afternoon, Spokane’s air quality was in the moderate range with a reading of 89.

Jeremy Wolf, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Spokane, said that for the past several weeks, winds have blown smoke from big fires northeast. That means smoke from big fires in Oregon have gone east of Spokane and big fires in Canada and northern Washington have blown north of Spokane.

But the cold front shifted some of those winds, which brought smoke from regional wildfires on Thursday.

Air quality readings were predicted to remain in the moderate or unhealthy for sensitive group levels late Thursday and Friday, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.

But smoke levels shouldn’t reach very unhealthy or hazardous levels in the Spokane area going into next week.

“We don’t see any big changes in the weather patterns that could bring a lot more smoke,” Wolf said.

Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties will experience the highest concentrations of smoke Thursday and Friday, according to NWS Spokane.

The Cub Creek 2 and Cedar Creek fires are the main sources of smoke affecting the Methow Valley, which sits between the two massive blazes.

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