Saturday, September 26, 2020
Sept. 26, 2020

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Hazardous air quality continues

Relief not expected until Thursday or Friday at earliest

By , Columbian staff writer, and
, Columbian Metro Editor
Published:
5 Photos
Vancouver resident Frank Schmit wears a mask while taking his dog, Ripley, a miniature schnauzer, for a stroll as thick wildfire smoke obscures the visibility of trees across the water at Frenchman' Bar Regional Park. Schmit said the fires and the smoke are just the latest in a list of unusual events that have happened in 2020. "It's been a hell of a year," he said.
Vancouver resident Frank Schmit wears a mask while taking his dog, Ripley, a miniature schnauzer, for a stroll as thick wildfire smoke obscures the visibility of trees across the water at Frenchman' Bar Regional Park. Schmit said the fires and the smoke are just the latest in a list of unusual events that have happened in 2020. "It's been a hell of a year," he said. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark County will likely have hazardous air quality until the end of the week, according to weather forecast modeling.

An expected early week weather system did not manifest, pushing relief off until Thursday or Friday at the earliest. Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency has extended its air pollution advisory through Thursday.

The Evergreen, Vancouver and Washougal school districts have will continue to suspend in-person services today. There is no trash pickup today in most of the county. Garbage pickup will continue in Camas, but not for recycling or yard debris.

As of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, Clark County’s levels for small particulate (PM 2.5) pollution were at 436, down from a maximum reading of 635 late Sunday evening, which went beyond the index for air quality. Pollution levels in Yacolt were at 236, in the very unhealthy range, and levels were 334 in White Salmon, still hazardous but improved from previous days.

There is a dense fog advisory for Clark County until 11 a.m., a dense smoke advisory until noon Wednesday and an air quality alert through noon Thursday.

Air quality is rated as good between 0 to 50, moderate from 51 to 100, unhealthy for sensitive groups from 101-150, unhealthy for everyone from 151 to 200, and very unhealthy for everyone from 201 to 300. Readings from 300-500 are considered hazardous and readings above 500 are considered “beyond index.”

Meteorologists were hoping that an incoming weather system would move smoke out of the area by early this week, but modeling now shows that relief likely won’t arrive until the end of the week or the weekend.

The National Weather Service Portland Tweeted Thursday that hazardous air quality will remain in inland valleys through Thursday, with minor improvements along the coast.

Air quality is expected to improve starting on Friday, but those improvements might be gradual.

A frontal system was expected to bring spotty light rain late Monday into today, with lingering showers this afternoon and evening and a chance of showers for toward the end of the week. Cooler temperatures will continue throughout the week.

“Then, just then, flow may be strong enough to push smoke on east of the Cascades, with true blue skies at times for next weekend,” the National Weather Service said.

Keep the smoke out

As hazardous air continues to linger, Clark County Public Health is reminding residents to do their best to seal off their homes from the outside.

Public Health Public Information Officer Marissa Armstrong said in an email that no residence “is going to be airtight and prevent all smoke from entering.” Smoke will seep in through cracks, doors and windows, Armstrong said.

“That’s why we encourage people to do what they can to keep their indoor air as clean as possible,” Armstrong said.

You should not light candles, vacuum or fry food during smoky days. If you can use an air purifier, that’s encouraged. Folks can also create their own system with a box fan and air filters.

People can also designate a clean air room in their house, Armstrong said, preferably a room with few windows and a closed inside door, where they can utilize an air purifier.

At this point, people should still be relatively safe indoors, with the proper precautions in place. Vicki Guinn, a spokeswoman for Legacy Salmon Creek, said the hospital has “a slight uptick in inpatient respiratory-related illnesses” at the moment.

Protect the little ones

Just as humans are impacted by wildfire smoke, so are your pets, especially older pets or pets with lung or heart conditions.

If your pets have symptoms such as coughing or gaging, red or watery eyes, nasal discharge, inflammation of the throat or mouth, a reluctance to eat hard foods, trouble breathing, fatigue, weakness, stumbling, reduced appetite or thirst, you may need to check with a veterinarian about next steps.

Try to keep your pets indoors as much as possible, and keep inside air as clean as possible. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a smoke guide for those with pets: www3.epa.gov/airnow/smoke_fires/protect-your-pets-from-wildfire-smoke.pdf.

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