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Wildfire smoke swirls through High Desert


The dozen-plus wildfires burning around Oregon promise to bring smoky skies to various parts of the state in coming days, including the High Desert, which saw smoke-dimmed skies over the weekend and again Monday, thanks to shifting winds now coming from the west.

The Oregon DEQ issued this smoke advisory Monday afternoon:

Wildfires across Oregon created smoky conditions in many communities this weekend. While Portland and the Willamette Valley saw some smoke over the weekend, levels were very unhealthy to hazardous conditions at Big Lake near Sisters on Saturday. Smoke reached hazardous levels Monday morning in the Parkdale area of Hood River County.

Wind began to clear the air Monday west of the Cascades and push smoke into communities in Central Oregon. The National Weather Service expects the trend to continue into midweek. However, with ongoing fires across the state, smoky conditions are possible in most communities for next few weeks.

Smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly, depending on weather factors including wind direction. Should smoke events occur, The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and health officials urge local residents to take the following precautions to avoid breathing problems or other symptoms from smoke:

Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area and avoid the places with highest concentrations

Avoid smoke either by leaving the area or protecting yourself by staying indoors, closing all windows and doors and using a filter in your heating/cooling system that removes very fine particulate matter

Avoid strenuous outdoor activity

People suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their asthma or breathing management plans or contact their health care providers

DEQ’s smoke data reflects conditions at its air quality monitors. Since conditions can be very local, and change quickly, DEQ urges people to visually assess local smoke levels for themselves and take the proper precautions.

East of the Cascades

Dense smoke rolled into Parkdale, Hood River County, this morning, causing periods of hazardous air quality. Smoke at DEQ’s air quality monitoring stations in Bend and Sisters reached levels that were unhealthy for sensitive groups Sunday. The National Weather Service expects winds to send more smoke into Central Oregon this week.

Here’s a look at hourly data from some communities east of the Cascades:

Bend: Air quality was mostly good this weekend, with smoke reaching moderate levels Sunday evening. Shifting winds are expected to bring more smoke in the first half of the week.

Hood River County: The Oregon Department of Forestry partnered with DEQ to place a mobile air quality monitoring station in Parkdale last week. Data from that monitor indicates that smoke levels reached hazardous levels this morning, and unhealthy levels Saturday and Sunday mornings. Smoky conditions prompted the county health department to issue an advisory instructing residents to avoid outdoor activities today.

La Grande: Air quality was mostly good in La Grande over the weekend with air quality just reaching into the moderate range Saturday afternoon.

Madras: Smoke was visible in Madras over the weekend, with air quality fluctuating between good and moderate. Smoke levels increased this morning, but remained in the moderate range.

Sisters: Sisters registered air quality unhealthy for sensitive groups Sunday evening, while smoke levels at DEQ’s Big Lake monitor, about 20 miles northwest of Sisters, spiked to hazardous levels midday Saturday and unhealthy levels midday Sunday. Air Quality in Sisters we moderate this morning, with more smoke possible this week.

The Dalles: Air quality in The Dalles was good this weekend, with smoke levels rising to moderate this morning.

West of the Cascades

Smoke concentrations reached very unhealthy levels for a short time as smoke passed through Government Camp Sunday morning and caused some noticeable haze in communities west of the Cascades over the weekend. Smoke levels remained below unhealthy levels in most of the area. Winds expected this week could send more smoke west into these communities.

Here’s a look at hourly data from some communities west of the Cascades:

Government Camp: Smoke concentrations continue to hover near the moderate range with occasional spikes into unhealthy categories. Smoke concentrations were higher Friday afternoon but relatively low on Saturday. On Sunday smoke concentrations spiked to unhealthy levels at Government Camp between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Portland Metro Area: The region experienced higher than normal levels of smoke over the weekend peaking near the moderate level around 5 p.m. Sunday evening and recording near normal levels by Monday morning.

Salem: Smoke concentrations nearly reached moderate Sunday morning peaked at Noon and steadily declined throughout the afternoon and evening.

Corvallis/Albany: Smoke rolled into the area Saturday, nearly reaching the moderate level in Albany Sunday morning then clearing steadily throughout the day. Levels dropped to normal by Monday morning.

Sandy: The Oregon Department of Forestry partnered with DEQ to place a mobile air quality monitoring station in Sandy last week. Data from that monitor indicates that smoke levels over the weekend mostly ranged from good to moderate, reaching levels unhealthy for sensitive groups on Sunday afternoon.

Sweet Home: After higher than normal readings all week that nearly reached moderate levels Saturday, smoke concentrations jumped to unhealthy levels Sunday morning. Levels dropped to normal by early Monday morning.

Lyons: East of the Eugene area on the Santiam Hwy., monitors recorded moderate readings for fine particulates and smoke Saturday morning as smoke moved rapidly through the area.

Grants Pass, Medford and Roseburg: Smoke concentrations hovered below the moderate level over the weekend. Concentrations in Roseburg nearly reached moderate Sunday morning but dropped rapidly throughout the day like much of the region.

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