These are sure strange days…dense fire smoke is covering most of the western USA right now, especially along the West Coast. Take a look at the afternoon image from GOES-WEST. Click on any of these images for a better view

The smoke has moved so far offshore that it’s wrapped up into an upper-level low. A closer view shows smoke covers almost all of Oregon and Washington. I’ve circled a large plume pushing above the smoke layer over the Lionshead Fire, just east of Olallie Lake in the Cascades. Another plume is over the Brattain Fire just south of Paisley.

Of course we all know what it looks like down in the smoke layer. A sickly and cool yellow/orange world.

THIS IS THE WORST AIR QUALITY FOR THE LONGEST PERIOD OF TIME I’VE SEEN IN OUR AREA. This is our third day in the very unhealthy to hazardous category. Look at the numbers, most of us in the HAZARDOUS level. I’ve rarely seen a city go above 300; but Portland is around 500! The problem is not only smoke coming from those fires, but a weak push of cooler marine air has put us in a strong inversion. Temperatures in the 60s in the lowlands but 70s higher up. If we didn’t have the smoke we would have been in the lower 80s today.

When will it improve? Maybe slightly better tomorrow afternoon, but I think Monday should be much better with a strong push of westerly wind. Look at the HRRR smoke modeling for midday Sunday, this is a bit better than today

Then midday Monday…MUCH better

Smoke will still come and go next week since a system offshore will keep sending smoke out of California, but hopefully this long episode of dangerous smoke will end Monday

What about the fires? More good news today. No significant growth towards Molalla, Colton, Estacada, Silverton etc… in the past 2.5 days. Once the east wind disappeared the fires really slowed down. 700+ square miles burned with the 3 north Cascade fires. Today more of the area around Olallie Lake was burning as well as Trout Lake on the Warm Springs Reservation. It appears the Lionshead joined the (now in mop-up phase) P515 fire today too. So there is a 60 mile long corridor from Lyons to west of Warm Springs that has burned. That’s amazing.

Farther south, the Holiday Farm fire and Archie Creek fire continue to burn

Those fires will all burn until heavy rain and/or snow flies later in the fall.

To summarize:

  1. Fire fighting conditions continue to be good through the foreseeable future. No sign of hot/dry easterly wind for at least the next week
  2. All the Cascade foothill towns that are in Level 3 or partially burned shouldn’t see any additional burning. Hopefully lots of you get to go home in the next few days!
  3. Dense smoke should turn into more reasonable smoke in the lower elevations after tomorrow.
  4. The big fires in the Cascades will be burning for quite awhile. Luckily we’re not far from October when wetting rains usually end the fire threat

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

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