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Air quality drops as wildfire smoke makes its way into Whatcom County

Red indicates UNHEALTHY air quality and orange indicates UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS as reported by monitoring stations as of 3pm on August 1, 2021. Source: AirNow.gov

KENDALL, Wash. — Residents in the Peaceful Valley/Kendall area are experiencing unhealthy air quality today, August 1st, according to air monitoring stations reporting from the area.

The National Weather Service Seattle office said this afternoon to expect marine air to improve air quality in the Bellingham area overnight, but the Kendall and Maple Falls areas will get less relief and could remain smoky.

The following are the air quality readings being reported for locations around Whatcom County as of 3pm, August 1st.

General LocationAir Quality Level
Everson/Nooksack/Deming/GlacierUnhealthy
SumasUnhealthy
Blaine/LyndenModerate
Lummi Island/Ferndale/CusterModerate
Sandy PointGood
Sudden Valley/BellinghamModerate

A post to the Washington Smoke blog, a partnership between state, county, and federal agencies, and Indian tribes, said Friday wildfire smoke from California and Oregon, as well as from fires in eastern Washington, had crept into the upper atmosphere over parts of the Puget Sound. As of Friday, the weather forecast was for a change to the steady flow of clean air from the Pacific Ocean that had been keeping the smoke away.

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So far, the Pacific Northwest has mostly been getting clean marine air flowing west to east . But a ripple in the pressure patterns has sent smoke from Northern California and Oregon to the northwest, and right for us. This is forecast to arrive late Friday afternoon.

The pressure gradient in central and eastern Washington, and further east, will also shift on Friday and Saturday and start sending smoke to us, too. Saturday late afternoon, we’ll get another wave of smoke from central and eastern Washington and British Columbia.

Although the upstairs smoke and the downstairs marine air generally keep to themselves, there’s a chance that a few of the upstairs visitors might trickle downstairs and push us to MODERATE air quality.

To add to this mix, the warmer temperatures are bringing us elevated ozone (smog) conditions. The atmosphere cooks up ozone from the emissions of cars, trucks, industry, and even plants. In the summer, when the temperatures get turned up to the 80s and 90s, the ozone can build up to levels that are considered Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Because the “cooking” of the urban emissions takes time and the winds during these hot episodes are to the east, the high ozone levels mostly occur in the foothills of the Cascades and not in the urban core.

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Washington Smoke Blog – July 30, 2021

Today, Metro Vancouver government officials issued an Air Quality Advisory for the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley Regional District areas due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter expected during the next few days. Smoke from wildfires burning in the interior of B.C. and Washington were seen as having moved into and over the region, resulting in elevated fine particulate matter concentrations and hazy skies. It was hoped onshore winds forecast for Tuesday would begin to clear the smoke.

Each air quality category corresponds to a different level of health concern as indicated by the following table.

  • Good
    The AQI is between 0 and 50. Air quality is satisfactory and poses little or no health risk.
  • Moderate
    The AQI is between 51 and 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, pollution in this range may pose a moderate health concern for a very small number of individuals. People who are unusually sensitive to ozone or particle pollution may experience respiratory symptoms.
  • Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups
    When AQI values are between 101 and 150, members of sensitive groups may experience health effects, but the general public is unlikely to be affected.
  • Unhealthy
    Everyone may begin to experience health effects when AQI values are between 151 and 200. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.
  • Very Unhealthy
    AQI values between 201 and 300 trigger a health alert, meaning everyone may experience more serious health effects.
  • Hazardous
    AQI values over 300 trigger health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is even more likely to be affected by serious health effects.

The latest air quality monitoring reports are available 24/7 from the Whatcom News Weather page.

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