Two layers of smoke are coming at us from different directions, as hot and dry weather feeds the spreading wildfires.
Get ready for more smoky haze in the Puget Sound area from wildfires in Washington and Oregon that are forcing evacuations and threatening homes.
The Pacific Northwest is being inundated with two layers of smoke from wildfires in Washington and Oregon, coming from different directions, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.
And it’s worse than originally anticipated, the weather service said, because there’s a low-level system carrying soot and particulate matter west from the fires near Cle Elum as well as a high-level breeze bringing smoke from the fires in Oregon.
“Basically, the Pacific Northwest is under a thick layer of smoke,” said Logan Johnson, a weather-service meteorologist.
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Johnson said the smoke — which looks as if it will be with us until the wind turns midweek — will do several things.
The smoke acts like an atmospheric blanket, keeping daytime temperatures slightly lower than they would be otherwise and keeping nighttime temperatures slightly higher.
That means a couple of uncomfortably warm nights are likely ahead for the 85 percent or so of Seattle area-residents who live without air conditioning.
Johnson on Sunday said the next couple of days will be hard on people with asthma and other health conditions affected by air quality. He urged people to check on vulnerable friends and relatives.
But those in the Seattle area are actually lucky, he said, compared with those living closer to the fires.
“I’m looking at the fire and thinking about all the damage and destruction it’s causing,” Johnson said.
Those wildfires, which already have burned tens of thousands of acres, continued to spread Monday, fueled by hot, dry weather.
Heavy smoke from the fires was also hindering firefighting efforts, with smoke so thick in some areas, air tankers and helicopters with water buckets were unable to be used, said Robin DeMario, a fire-information officer with Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.
The one saving grace of all that smoke, she said, is that it’s “created a buffer between the sun and the ground, which keeps the temperature a little cooler. It keeps the radiant heat of the sun from continuing to heat the fuels on the forest floor.”
Gov. Jay Inslee on Saturday declared a state of emergency for all of Washington.
In Washington state, the Diamond Creek fire, near the Canadian border in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest, grew to 75,000 acres Monday, DeMario said. The fire closed several roads and trails, and smoke continues to affect air quality in the upper Methow Valley.
The Norse Peak fire has burned more than 19,000 acres, with smoke from the fire prompting Crystal Mountain Resort to close. By nighttime, Pierce County officials told many in the area to leave immediately.
Much of Oregon was enveloped in its own smoky haze Monday as dozens of wildfires burned, with one forcing the closure of a stretch of interstate.
The Chetco Bar fire grew to approximately 150,000 acres, threatening the nearby coastal town of Brookings. The fire spread eastward, leading to an evacuation order for all residents on Illinois River Road within U.S. Forest Service boundaries.
The smaller Eagle Creek fire was ripping through stretches of the Columbia River Gorge, old-growth trees and and some of the area’s most popular hiking trails. The town of Cascade Locks about 2 miles to the north was under threat.
By 4 p.m., winds from the east picked up, and big plumes of smoke rose from the steep ridges of the Oregon side of the Gorge. On Monday night, ridge after ridge lit up, the fire resembling lava flows and the trees exploding into flames.
Interstate 84 from the Troutdale area to Hood River, was shut down and mandatory evacuations orders expanded to include Dodson and Warrendale.
Another blaze, the Indian Creek fire, estimated earlier Monday at 1,000 acres, was burning a few miles south of the town. About 280 residences and businesses were given evacuation orders, DeMario said.