Clean air still out of reach for now as forecast shifts in South Sound

  • Tue Sep 15th, 2020 3:30pm
  • News

By Sara Gentzler

The Olympian

Hope for cleaner air early this week fizzled Monday morning, with air quality in the region ranging from “very unhealthy” to “hazardous.” A storm system forecasters had projected to bring showers had waned in strength and stalled off the coast, and projections for a clearing of the haze have now stretched to late in the week.

Just before 7 a.m. Monday, state Department of Ecology data showed air quality throughout the South Puget Sound was at hazardous levels.

The storm system that had been sitting off the coast and bringing in smoke from off-shore stayed in place instead of making landfall, Mary Butwin, a meteorologist with National Weather Service in Seattle, said. And, it weakened in strength.

So, what was looking like a good forecast to clear the air diminished to a scattered, “spotty drizzle,” Butwin said. It could help a little bit, but it won’t bring the smoke to the surface with the force of a heavy rain.

The Department of Ecology and the state Department of Health’s advice when you see air quality readings like this is to take precautions: Stay inside, and keep windows and doors closed.

Those who own air conditioners should set them to re-circulate, and those who don’t can use an indoor air purifier or create one using a box fan and furnace filter. If you’re driving, set your vehicle’s air conditioner to re-circulate.

Don’t use candles, incense, sprays, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Avoid vacuuming unless yours has a HEPA filter, according to DOH.

If you have neighbors and family members who are elderly or have health conditions, it’s a good time to check on them.

The cloth face coverings Washingtonians are wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19 may help a little bit, according to the state Department of Health, but won’t filter out fine particles or hazardous gases in smoke. NIOSH-approved N95 or N100 respirator masks can offer protection, but need to be reserved for people required to wear them for work and may be in short supply due to the ongoing pandemic, according to DOH.