Air quality remained poor in Spokane and much of the Inland Northwest on Tuesday afternoon, but a breeze, rain and cooler temperatures are expected to help lift the smoke in the coming days.

The air was slightly better Tuesday than it was for much of Monday, when the air quality index topped 200, the “very unhealthy” category.

The index hovered around 160 much of the day Tuesday in the “unhealthy” category.

Greg Koch, meteorologist at the Spokane office of the National Weather Service, said Tuesday afternoon that wind closer to the ground hasn’t been strong enough to cause a significant improvement.

But storms and showers are expected in much of Eastern Washington and northern Idaho late Tuesday and into Wednesday.

“Several of our active fires, including those in British Columbia, should get some precipitation over the next 24 to 36 hours,” Koch said.


Temperatures are forecast to fall to below normal over the weekend and through the early part of next week when highs are expected to be in the 60s and lows will fall into the 40s or lower.

“That is a much different weather pattern than we’ve had the last couple of weeks that promoted significant fire growth,” Koch said. “Overall, we’re looking at a trend that should favor improved air quality, but it will take some time to get some of the smoke out of here.”

Nurses in Spokane Public Schools were on alert again Tuesday.

“The nurses in our buildings are on high alert right now, checking in on students who have asthma, diabetes and so on,” said Becky Doughty, the district’s chief health officer.

According to a statement issued by the district, each building’s principal makes an individual decision whether to hold recess outdoors, based on the air quality index in their neighborhood.

“I’ve had a lot of calls this morning from principals,” Doughty said.

Logan principal Jessica Vigil said with the air quality index well above 150 on Tuesday morning, recess would be taken indoors.

Interscholastic athletic events are subject to guidance from the Greater Spokane League, which prohibits outdoor practice when the AQI is above 150.