Portland’s air quality rating remains unhealthy on Friday, although some relief may come later in the day.
The thick haze from wildfires in British Columbia has blanketed the Portland area this week amid record heat.
KGW chief meteorologist Matt Zaffino says westerly winds will not only mean a slight drop in temperature but also the possible clearing of smoke.
“The wildfire smoke responsible for our hazy sky and bad air quality may ease a bit Friday, when the winds aloft become more westerly,” he said.
Earlier this week the Oregon Department of Environment Quality said the air was considered unhealthy for sensitive populations, such as seniors, kids and people with respiratory problems. But they downgraded that rating to unhealthy for everyone on Thursday and it remained that way Friday morning.
Thousands of people in British Columbia have been evacuated as more than 100 wildfires throughout western Canada threaten homes. Winds pushed the wildfire smoke south into the northwestern U.S. on Tuesday.
The smoke moved farther into the Portland area throughout the day Wednesday. By Thursday morning, the sky was filled with hazy smoke.
“Air quality monitors in southwest Washington and Portland/Vancouver metro area have shown lowering air quality since Tuesday afternoon,” the National Weather Service said.
The DEQ issued an air pollution advisory for Portland, Vancouver, Salem, Eugene and Medford Wednesday. The advisory is expected to last through August 8.
Smog, exacerbated by a record-breaking heat wave, added to air quality issues.
“A number of active wildfires conducive to increasing ozone and particulate matter levels are expected to linger through next week,” the DEQ said in a press release.
A fire is also burning in the Mt. Jefferson wilderness.
After morning swim lessons Thursday, Portland Parks and Recreation closed the city’s outdoor pools and pulled camps indoors due to the unhealthy air quality and the excessive heat warning. Outdoor pools will remain closed all day Friday.
Indoor pools are open and on regular schedules.
Health officials warned people in the Portland metro area to avoid heavy or prolonged exercise outside, especially people who have underlying health conditions.
“These small particles are so small they can get down into the lungs and get into the blood stream,” said Dr. Richard Lehman, a public health physician with Oregon Health Authority. “When that happens that can lead to inflammation or irritation and if you’ve got underlying heart disease that can even trigger a heart attack.”
“Kids have small airways,” Lehman added. “And if they get swelling in their airways it makes it tougher for them to breathe.”
The Oregon Health Authority cautioned sensitive groups to stay inside and keep windows and doors closed, if possible, depending on heat. Keep the air quality clean by not frying or boiling food, which can add particles to indoor air. If you have to drive, run the air conditioner on “re-circulate” mode to keep smoky air from the car interior.
The smoke also impacted air quality in Clark County, Wash., officials said Wednesday afternoon. A pollution advisory has been issued for Southwest Washington and will likely continue through next week.
The air remained unhealthy south of Portland to Salem. The southern and eastern parts of the state have slightly better air quality.
The wildfires have caused air quality around Seattle to deteriorate to “among the worst in the country,” state officials told KGW’s sister station KING5.