Wildfire smoke about to inundate Western Washington once again

Thick smoke hangs over Seattle last week; it's coming back again for this week. (Photo: Chris Zempel)

SEATTLE -- Get in those wanted outdoor activities on Saturday, as the air quality is set to worsen significantly again with the return of thick wildfire smoke Sunday and into next week.

Air quality measurements were in the good to moderate range Saturday after consecutive marine pushes Thursday and Friday brought in some cleaner air off the ocean, but now the weather patterns is set to revert back to what happened early last week that blanketed the region in a thick haze of smoke.

Winds are in the process of shifting to the warmer north/northeast direction Saturday and that will begin to draw in some smoke from fires burning in British Columbia and Eastern Washington from the north and east.

An Air Quality Alert has been issued for much of Western Washington, including the Puget Sound region, from 10 a.m. Sunday through 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Projections from the National Weather Service show some smoke already reaching the Northwest Interior Saturday morning with smoke spreading south and west during Saturday evening and through the night. By Sunday, air quality levels could return to "unhealthy" across much of the region, including the greater Seattle/Puget Sound region.

"Unhealthy" levels were what much of Western Washington experienced last Tuesday and it was the worst air quality measured in Seattle in decades. At those levels, everyone may experience some health effects from the air, but those in sensitive groups such as those with heart and lung conditions, those over 65 and children may experience more serious health effects, according to the National Weather Service.

These hot, smoky conditions with unhealthy air are expected to continue into Monday, Tuesday and even into Wednesday before some marine air returns later Wednesday and should improve the air quality once again.

MORE | Latest Smoke Conditions | Wildfire Smoke Health Tips

While indoors, here are some steps from the Department of Health to limit exposure to wildfire smoke:

  • Keep windows and doors closed. Track the outside air quality and open your windows for fresh air when the air quality improves. Use fans to circulate the air.
  • If you have an air conditioner, set it to re-circulate and close the fresh-air intake. Make sure to change the filter regularly. (Also make sure to set this back to normal after the smoke clears)
  • Use an air cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollution, this will reduce the number of irritating fine particles in indoor air. A HEPA filter with charcoal will help remove some of the gases from the smoke. Don’t use an air cleaner that produces ozone.
  • Don’t add to indoor pollution. Don’t smoke. Don’t use food broilers, candles, incense, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Don’t vacuum unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home.

Same advice goes for if you're in a car: Set the air conditioner to recirculate instead of draw in from outside.

In addition to the smoke, it will be hot once again with similar highs in the mid 80s to near 90, making a difficult choice to those who don't have air conditioning: Windows closed for smoke or open for heat relief? The smoke will once again limit some of the heating potential -- highs last week were in the mid 80s when forecast models suggested low 90s in a smoke-free environment but it will still be quite warm.

Long range models do keep us in cleaner air for the end of the week once the marine breezes return Tuesday night or Wednesday.

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