Unhealthy smoke choked Spokane on Saturday, and it couldn’t subside without rain

Spokane’s air quality plummeted Saturday morning, with smoke from forest fires arriving at full strength across the country due to a wind shift.

The smoke gave Spokane the dreaded orange hue and sent the air quality far into the unhealthy range for the environment.

The air quality index was 165 on Saturday around noon, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. The air quality index ranges from 1-500, with “unhealthy” air quality from 151-200.

According to the Spokane Regional Agency for Clean Air, measuring air quality on Saturday means anyone can begin to experience health effects, and members of sensitive groups can experience more serious side effects.

Storms, which may hit east Washington Saturday night and Sunday, turned the winds to blow southeast, bringing in smoke from forest fires in Canada, northeast Washington, and northern Idaho.

Ron Miller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Spokane, said those winds will continue to blow in smoke until there is another shift that is not expected in the next few days.

However, there can be salvation to both the smoke and the extreme drought the area is experiencing.

“Water droplets can absorb smoke and dust particles in the atmosphere and improve air quality,” Miller said.

NWS Spokane predicts Spokane has a 20 percent chance of rain on Saturday night and a 40 percent chance of rain on Sunday.

There is smoke in other areas of east Washington as well. Miller said the worst air quality near the Cascades will be in areas like Okanogan County, where there are pools of smoke next to the mountains.

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