Smoke plagues valley, and beyond
Winthrop landed in the evil realm of Mordor last Thursday (July 22) on a color-coded chart invoking the realms of the Lord of the Rings. The National Weather Service (NWS) in Spokane used the chart to illustrate how toxic the air quality really is.
The pattern of hazardous air has plagued the Methow for the past week. Tuesday (July 27), NWS tweeted, “The Methow Valley waking up to the poorest air quality in the U.S. again this morning.”
On maps that report readings from air monitors, the ominous cluster of dark-purple dots in Washington – indicating “hazardous” conditions – has remained concentrated over the Methow Valley for much of the week. East of the Loup Loup summit, air quality improves to “moderate.”
Western and south-central Washington are peppered with a refreshing sea of green dots, indicating “good” air. Even most of Oregon and California are enjoying clean air, despite active wildfires.
Smoke from the wildfires in the Northwest has plagued the entire country. The NWS office in Caribou, Maine, alerted people that “smoke from distant forest fires” had led to a local air-quality alert.
To protect yourself from the hazards of smoke, health care providers recommend keeping doors and windows closed and using an air purifier or an air conditioner set to recirculate air. Instructions for an inexpensive air purifier using a box fan, MERV filters and a bungee cord are available from www.cleanairmethow.org.
When outdoors, people should wear an N95 mask, which filters the most dangerous particles called PM2.5, which can lodge in the lungs. People who work outdoors should wear a respirator approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Wildfire smoke can make people more susceptible to respiratory infections, including COVID-19, according to the Washington Department of Health (DOH). Smoke can exacerbate symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and difficulty breathing.
People should avoid strenuous activity in the smoke, and should try to exercise indoors, DOH said.
People over 65, children, pregnant women, and those with heart or lung disease are especially susceptible to smoke.
Real-time air-quality readings:
• Smoke forecasts: www.airnow.gov (see the “Fires” tab)
More information, box-fan instructions:
Free masks (generally available outside 24/7):
Aero Methow Rescue Service, Twisp
Room One, Twisp
Twisp Town Hall
Twisp post office