Three firefighters who died in a firestorm near Twisp Wednesday: Richard Wheeler, Tom Zbyszewski, and Andrew Zajac. (Photos courtesy of the families)
Air quality has improved across much of eastern Washington in the last 12 hours as the dry cold front pushed through, increasing the intensity of northwest winds. Most areas are reporting Good air quality now. But alas, reports of rapid fire growth are steadily streaming in. The Red Flag Warning remains in place until at least 11:00 pm PDT with high wind gusts in many areas (up to 50 mph in the Okanogan Valley). There is also a strong possibility of windblown dust in the Columbia Basin today.
Things calm down on Saturday morning and surface winds turn east to northeast in much of the state (north winds in the Okanogan and Columbia River Valleys) through about Sunday afternoon. The smoke we exported to Idaho and Montana will return to us along with smoke from Idahoan fires. Smoke is very likely to make its way into Western Washington as well. However plumes that are able to get high enough will likely get caught in westerly flow aloft and keep heading eastbound.
Keep a close eye on the monitors and local forecasts as expected levels of pollution will depend on today’s fire growth. Expect pollution to begin to build regionally over the weekend. Valley winds will be mostly terrain driven, so expect poor air quality at night. Overnight temperature inversions are likely to be strong, so smoke wont clear out all that quickly after sunrise.
Areas close to fires and the far eastern parts of the state are likely to see air quality varying from Moderate to Hazardous.
Columbia Basin and Cascade Foothills communities, including communities close to the Columbia River Gorge will likely see air quality varying from Good to Unhealthy.
Western Washington including the Puget Sound region is likely to see periods of Moderate or USG air.
National Weather Service has also issued Air Quality Alerts for much of eastern Washington due to wildfire smoke, through noon on Monday.