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News / Northwest

At 87 degrees, Seattle breaks heat record as wildfires and smoke spread

By Mike Reicher, The Seattle Times
Published: October 17, 2022, 7:39am

SEATTLE — Seattle broke the record Sunday for the hottest temperature this late in the year, as heat-driven wildfires threaten homes in southwest Washington and continue to send smoke across the region.

Still, hope remains for a slight cooling overnight.

As of 3:30 p.m. the official high reached 87 degrees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, making it the latest day in the calendar year at or above 80 degrees on record, National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Michalski said.

The previous record at Sea-Tac was 80 degrees on October 14, 1961.

Gusty east winds continued in the Cascade foothills Sunday. A red flag warning, indicating a high risk of fire spread, remained in effect through 5 p.m.

“The critical fire weather conditions are in place: dry fuels, combined with low relative humidity … along with gusty east winds,” Michalski said. “It drives the rapid growth on the fires we’re seeing.”

The extreme fire conditions stretched into the south Cascades, where authorities expanded an evacuation order Sunday afternoon. Clark County officials are warning people near the growing Nakia Creek wildfire northeast of Camas to evacuate or prepare to leave their homes.

About 1,000 homes are under Level 3 (go now) evacuations, up from 100 households Tuesday, two days after the blaze ignited for unknown reasons.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office said the fire now covers 400 acres and is “aggressively” moving west and southwest.

Residents may track information about the fire on the website of the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency.

The Washington State Department of Transportation closed a portion of Highway 2 near Skykomish multiple times on Sunday, so fire crews could assess and remove hazardous trees and use helicopters to “attack hotspots in the area.” The highway was closed between mile markers 46 and 50 as of 4:30 p.m. with no estimate of when it would reopen.

The Bolt Creek fire burning in the area was 41% contained as of Sunday afternoon, according to the incident command team.

Other fires in the region spread over the weekend.

The Loch Katrine fire, just 30 miles east of Seattle on the edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, grew to more than 2,000 acres overnight, the U.S. Forest Service said Sunday. The fire is burning on private forest land in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and is not currently threatening communities or structures. Forest Road 57 and the Sunday Lake Trail No. 1000 are closed near the fire area.

“The fire was very small until this easterly wind event this weekend,” U.S. Forest Service communications manager Christopher Bentley said. “The combination of several weeks of unusually dry and hot weather, combined with that wind, just made that fire blow up. It went from basically nothing to 2,000 acres overnight.”

The 8 Road fire, 4 miles north of Elbe in Pierce County, is estimated at 100-150 acres as of Sunday afternoon, the state Department of Natural Resources said. Some locations on Scott Turner Road, Beaver Creek Road and 8 Road are under a level 1 evacuation notice, meaning residents should be prepared in case evacuation is necessary.

A wildfire smoke alert continued for the Puget Sound region Sunday. Air quality was mostly unhealthy for sensitive groups, but ranged from good to unhealthy for everyone else depending on location, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

But on Sunday night and into Monday morning, an onshore flow is expected to bring the marine layer with “relatively cooler, moister air coming from over the Pacific,” National Weather Service meteorologist Dev McMillian said. While Eastern Washington will see more smoke, the cooler, wetter air is expected to decrease the coverage of smoke and McMillian said possibly improve air quality west of the Cascades.

Nonetheless, Monday temperatures are forecast to be above average, in the upper 60s. The region has received less than 10% of normal rainfall since July 4, according to the Weather Service.

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The remainder of the week is expected to be dry and warmer than average — with daytime highs around 70 — until a storm front expected to arrive Friday night.

“It could probably bring our best shot of rain since early June,” McMillian said.