Poor air quality to continue 'for some time'

Andrew Allan, of East Wenatchee, crosses Wenatchee Avenue at Kittitas Street on Wednesday morning. He often walks to the Wenatchee Public Library, and when the smoke gets bad, he stops by the Chelan-Douglas Health District to get a free mask.

WENATCHEE — It doesn't look like the smoke is going away anytime soon.

The National Weather Service reported Wednesday that Washington had the worst air quality in the country. According to the Washington Department of Ecology, Wenatchee had the worst air quality in the state.

"In Western Washington, we were expecting to see some clearing (Wednesday), but that got pushed back to (Thursday)," said Ecology spokesman Andrew Wineke. "In Eastern Washington, it's a dicier picture because of those local fires. We're really expecting to see, at least locally, continued poor air quality for some time to come."

The smoke could last into September, Wineke said.

"Short-term, it's going to depend on how close you are to the fires," he said. "Certainly in the Okanogan, there's going to be a lot of poor air quality in the days ahead. Longer term, you can't predict, but there's enough going on that there's reason to be concerned about air quality at least for the next few weeks."

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Ecology's air quality index reading for Wenatchee was 318, meaning hazardous. Visibility was 6 miles, and wind speeds were a little over 3 mph.

Here were other local readings:

Wineke said wildfires in British Columbia were adding to the problem.

"We're seeing smoke on both sides of the state from that, but in Eastern Washington, the local fires are really pushing it over the top," he said.

Wildfire smoke can cause burning eyes, sore throats, headaches, coughing and shortness of breath.

Ecology advises everyone to limit time outdoors, set their air-conditioning to recirculation and keep pets inside if possible. Certain groups are especially vulnerable, including those with heart or lung disease, asthma or diabetes; people who have had a stroke; children; people over 65; and pregnant women.

In areas with hazardous air quality, Wineke said residents should consider wearing a mask if they must go outside.

"It won't get everything, but it'll help," he said.

For current conditions, the latest forecast and other wildfire smoke information, visit wasmoke.blogspot.com.