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Sunday, October 1, 2023
Oct. 1, 2023

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Hazardous air settles in to Clark County; relief will be slow in coming

By , Columbian Metro Editor

Wildfire smoke has pushed air quality levels well into the hazardous levels throughout Clark County this afternoon. Smoke is expected to remain through the weekend.

An air monitoring station operated by the Washington Department of Ecology showed small particulate pollution (PM2.5) levels in Vancouver at 373 as of 6:30 a.m. and 318 as of about 2:15 p.m. Air quality levels in Yacolt were at 216, which rated as “very unhealthy,” at 6:30 a.m., but worsened to 326 as of 2:15 p.m. A monitoring station in White Salmon was at 445 this morning, even farther into the “hazardous” range than Vancouver and the worst in the state. Updated numbers for White Salmon were not available this afternoon.

The system rates air quality as good (0 to 50), moderate (51 to 100), unhealthy for sensitive groups (101-150), unhealthy (151-200) and very unhealthy 201 to 300. Any reading above 300 is considered hazardous.

At very unhealthy levels, the state has advised that everyone should stay indoors, avoid all strenuous activity, close windows and doors if it’s not too hot, set your air conditioner to recirculate and use a HEPA air filter if possible. Those same recommendations apply for levels in the “hazardous’ range and also recommend that people with heart or lung disease, or those who have had a stroke, to consult their healthcare provider about leaving the area and wearing a properly-fitted respiratory mask if they must go outdoors.

“The best way to protect your health when air is smoky is to limit time outdoors and reduce physical activity” Clark County Public Health announced in a social media post. “It’s important to keep your indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed. Turn the air conditioner in your home and vehicle to recirculate to avoid bringing smoky air inside. Avoid burning candles, using aerosol products, frying food and smoking. Do not vacuum unless using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. And use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter.”

Relief from these conditions will be slow in coming. The Southwest Clean Air Agency has extended an air pollution advisory for Southwest Washington through noon on Monday, and the National Weather Service has reported that visibility in Vancouver had fallen to less than a mile at times overnight.

The heavy smoke will keep temperatures lower than originally expected for this weekend, with highs around 80 and lows around 55.

Forecasters are putting their hope into a wet weather system forecast to move into the area early next week, bringing a chance of rain on Monday and showers through much of the week.