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Eastern Washington air quality values continue to deteriorate

Air quality remains a concern throughout Central and Eastern Washington with values ranging from hazardous in the Wenatchee area to very unhealthy in Clarkston, and unhealthy in Ritzville, Pullman and LaCrosse.

In Ellensburg, Yakima and Moses Lake air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and of moderate concern in Goldendale, White Swan and Walla Walla County.

Residents are advised to take common sense health precautions, consider advisories and alerts from their local health departments and consult with their personal physicians. Schools and athletic directors should consult with their local health authorities or medical personnel to determine when to curtail outdoor activities.

Generally, people in Chelan and Whitman counties should try to remain indoors and limit physical activity. Doors and windows should remain closed and air conditioners placed on re-circulate, if possible.

The biggest health threat comes from the fine particles in smoke. These can cause burning eyes, runny nose, bronchitis and other illnesses. Smoky air also can aggravate heart and lung diseases, and even lead to death.

Health officials urge people to protect themselves and those who are sensitive to smoke from breathing smoky air. Sensitive populations include children and people with heart and lung conditions

More information about the health effects of wildfire smoke is available from the Washington Department of Health at: http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/AirQuality/OutdoorAir/SmokeFromFires.aspx.

More information on the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) designations is available at: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/publications/0802022.pdf.

Local and regional wildfires continue to contribute to the deteriorating conditions. According to Ecology meteorologist Ranil Dhammapala, southwest winds are expected to gradually develop through the Columbia Basin during the latter part of today, helping to flush out some of the Idaho wildfire smoke from around Pullman and Clarkston, but smoke remains a concern at least until Sunday.

Wenatchee and Chelan should start seeing some clearing late Saturday, while it may be Sunday evening before the Columbia basin is flushed out. However, the absence of easterlies will probably mean areas like Leavenworth and the Methow may see some improvement compared to yesterday and experience less smoke at night, but still not be smoke free.

And finally, given the absence of east winds, it is unlikely that smoke will make it across the Cascades into Western Washington today or on Saturday. These areas should start seeing less-hazy skies by Friday evening.

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