Sunday, September 20, 2020
Sept. 20, 2020

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Dense fog, hazardous smoke choke Clark County’s air

Relief forecast to come with rain on Monday night

By , Columbian Sports Editor
Published:

Air quality in Clark County deteriorated further on Sunday morning, with pollution remaining hazardous due to wildfire smoke.

At 1 p.m., The Washington Department of Ecology reported small particulate (PM 2.5) pollution levels at 500 in Vancouver and 435 in Yacolt, both readings are in the “hazardous” range. That’s worse than Saturday evening, when pollution levels of 411 were recorded in Vancouver. 

The air pollution coupled with dense fog reduced visibility to less than a quarter mile on Sunday morning. That led the Southwest Clean Air Agency to issue an Air Quality Alert and the National Weather Service to issue a Dense Fog Advisory.

The Air Quality Alert is in effect for all of Western Oregon and Southwest Washington until noon Monday, when an incoming weather system should bring some relief from the smoke. Rain is forecast to arrive Monday night and continue throughout Tuesday. Cool, wet weather is forecast to continue throughout the rest of the week.

The Dense Fog Advisory was in effect until 11 a.m., with the National Weather Service warning of hazardous driving conditions.

Air quality is in the hazardous range for most of Washington. White Salmon in the Columbia River Gorge and Spokane both recorded pollution levels of 500 before falling to about 450 near noon.

Pollutants in smoke can cause burning eyes, runny nose, aggravate heart and lung diseases, and aggravate other serious health problems.

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 hazardous levels, people 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. People with heart or lung disease, or those who have had a stroke, should consult their health care provider about leaving the area and wearing a properly-fitted respiratory mask if they must go outdoors.

Council for the Homeless asks anyone who is homeless and needing shelter or housing assistance during these hazardous conditions to call the Housing Hotline at 360-695-9677 to learn about available resources. The hotline is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

To aid the homeless community, Living Hope Church in central Vancouver is moving its tent encampment indoors until air quality improves. The city-sanctioned encampment has been in the church’s parking lot to provide a safe space for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Christian church, which occupies a former Kmart at 2711 N.E. Andresen Road, announced Thursday night it’s open to wildfire evacuees, said Pastor Brian Norris. The Sikh community, which has provided meals for the homeless at the church most Sundays for the last few months, offered to make additional meals for evacuees if needed.

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