Wildfire smoke, orange-tinted skies — and now, thunderstorms. Of course the acrid air would be cleared away by something else dramatic. Nothing’s shocking in 2020.

The otherworldly smoke blanketing the Puget Sound region is beginning to dissipate because of shifting winds and showers that began Friday afternoon. Those showers were accompanied by some thunderstorms in parts of Western Washington early Friday evening, including near Bremerton, said Art Gaebel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.

Scattered showers are expected to continue into Saturday, Gaebel said.

Friday’s drizzle won’t be enough to completely clear the smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California, but the change in weather will continue to push the haze east, said weather service meteorologist Dustin Guy.

“The worst is behind us,” Guy said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to improve and bringing in cleaner air off the Pacific.”

By Friday evening, the air quality in Seattle and Tacoma was considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” a step up from the “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” categories, according to the state Department of Ecology’s air monitoring network.

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Conditions have improved along the coast where the air quality is listed as “good,” though air in much of Eastern Washington is still reported as “unhealthy.” Areas east of the Cascades are about a day behind, but will start seeing significant improvements by Sunday, according to a Friday afternoon blog post from the state Department of Ecology. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow network is reporting similar improvement in air quality Friday evening.

“Rain is helping a bit, but the weakening inversion is helping most,” the post said.

Any smoke that remains in the Puget Sound region “would almost surely be scoured out” by another system expected to move in around the middle of next week, Guy said.

There isn’t much worry about lightning sparking new fires. Any lightning in Western Washington is expected to be accompanied by heavy downpours, Guy said.

There has also been some good news east of the Cascades as several fires have been completely contained, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC).

Seven fires in Washington state are being monitored by the NWCC, which gave the following status report Friday morning:

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  • Inchelium Complex encompassing the Fry, Inchelium Highway and Kewa Field fires (started Sept. 7), north of Inchelium: 19,005 acres of grass, brush and timber (same as Thursday), 67% contained, active fire behavior. Structures threatened. Evacuation notices in effect.
  • Big Hollow fire (started Sept. 8), northwest of Carson: 24,309 acres of timber and slash (1,336 more than Thursday), 25% completed, minimal fire behavior. Structures threatened. Evacuation notices and road, trail and area closures in effect.
  • Cold Creek fire (started Sept. 14), west of Yakima: 400 acres of timber (148 more than Thursday), 5% contained, active fire behavior. Structures threatened. Road, trail and area closures in effect.
  • Cold Springs fire (started Sept. 6), south of Omak: 189,923 acres of grass and brush (331 more than Thursday), 85% contained, minimal fire behavior. Structures threatened. Evacuation notices and road, trail and area closures in effect.
  • Pearl Hill fire (started Sept. 7 when it split off from the Cold Springs fire), east of Bridgeport: 223,730 acres of grass and brush (unchanged since Thursday), 94% contained, minimal fire behavior. Road and area closures in effect.
  • Fish fire (started Sept. 8 by humans), east of Enumclaw: 132 acres of timber (unchanged since Thursday), 75% contained, minimal fire behavior. Road closures in effect.
  • Whitney fire (started Sept. 7), northwest of Davenport: 127,430 acres of grass, brush and timber (unchanged since Thursday), 95% contained, minimal fire behavior. Structures threatened.

The NWCC has given no update on these Washington fires since Wednesday:

  • Sumner Grade fire (started Sept. 7), northeast of Waller: 494 acres of grass, brush and timber, 95% contained, minimal fire behavior.
  • Apple Acres fire (started Sept. 7), northeast of Chelan: 5,500 acres of grass, timber and brush (273 fewer than Tuesday afternoon), 99% contained, minimal fire behavior.

The Customs Road fire is considered 100% contained as of Thursday. It started Sept. 7 and burned 2,208 acres of timber and brush northwest of Curlew.

The following Washington fires were considered contained as of Wednesday morning, according to the NWCC:

  • Babb fire (started Sept. 7), north of Colfax: Burned at least 15,266 acres of grass, brush and timber.
  • Manning Road fire (started Sept. 7), northeast of Colfax: Burned at least 2,685 acres of grass, brush and timber.
  • Evans Canyon fire (started Aug. 31), northwest of Naches: Burned at least 75,817 acres of timber, grass and brush.

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