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Air quality 'unhealthy' due to wildfire smoke; flights delayed at Sea-Tac Airport

Wildfire smoke turns the sun orange-red over Lake Washington on Sunday Aug. 19, 1018.

SEATTLE -- Air quality tipped into the 'unhealthy' range on Sunday night in the Seattle area with at least five sensors in Seattle-Tacoma area reading 'unhealty' for all people. Several others registered 'unhealthy for sensitive groups.'

The air in the Kirland strongly smelled like a campfire Sunday night.

The thick smoke also caused serious delays at Sea-Tac airport because of poor visibility -- averaging an hour and 33 minutes on departing flights as of 6 p.m.

The city's usual crystal-clear skyline has turned back into the smoky conditions we experienced last week.

"It just makes Seattle dreary," said Alki Beach visitor Wendy Steward. "It should be nice and bright. it gets to be kind of hazy. It's a shame. It's kind of the last month of summer. Second year in a row that we have to have this."

The National Weather Service said the winds from the north and northeast have returned, bringing wildfire smoke back into our region on Sunday, which will only get worse the next few days. It means a repeat of the heavy smoke we experienced the first three days of last week.

"I know there's concern with my son," said Alki jogger Valerie Eide. "He does 2-a-day football so they have to do indoor football practices. So we just kind of make do. It's kind of uncontrollable."

Others couldn't agree more.

"It's not good for us volleyball players," Ellie Ostrand said. "Beach volleyball is what summers at Alki are all about. But now the players and everyone else are having to deal with what we saw last week. "

She added, "Wednesday we played in the heavy smoke and it felt like playing in an ashtray. It definitely makes it hotter and much harder to breathe."

The Weather Service says Sunday's smoky conditions are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children and older adults and people who are pregnant, have heart or lung issues like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or who have had a stroke. And it could worsen to unhealthy conditions for everyone starting Monday.

People are sensing an unfortunate trend.

"It's the second year that it's done this," Steward said. "It seems with global warming that it probably could be the case."

"It's been really warm and hot and that's kind of a trend in our summers and so environmentally that may be a reality for us," Eide said. "It's what we're having to deal with."

The advice from the Centers for Disease Control is to stay indoors with air conditioners using the recirculation mode. Don't vacuum because it stirs up particles. If it's serious enough you may need a respirator.

But not everyone is affected by the smoky conditions.

"I haven't noticed it all other than visually," said beach volleyball player Luis Antezana. "It's not affecting me. I played for two and a half hours on Wednesday."

"No, it hasn't bothered me at all," Steward said. "I don't smell it and don't have any issues."

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