Coping with the smoke enveloping Whidbey

Driving from Coupeville to Oak Harbor Thursday afternoon, Teresa A. Krychta pulled off the road at San de Fuca to take a few photos of the thick smoky haze that’s settled over much of Whidbey Island this week.

“We couldn’t even see the other side,” she said of her view of Penn Cove from 3 Sisters Market at San de Fuca on State Highway 20.

It wasn’t early morning marine fog, she posted on the North Whidbey Island Weather Facebook page, because the time was about 1:30 p.m.

Krychta said skies continued to look cloudy and somewhat hazy Friday morning from her Oak Harbor home.

“I’ve been staying in except for doctor’s appointments because I have bronchitis,” she told the Whidbey News-Times.

Hazy skies from hundreds of wildfires burning north, south and east of Puget Sound socked in the region much of the week.

While a bit of relief is predicted this weekend, the same weather pattern that prompted this week’s unhealthful air could return starting as early as Sunday evening or Monday, forecasters say.

Air quality around Whidbey Island was rated “moderate” on a new internet site, Washington Smoke Information, created by several federal, county, state and tribal agencies to alert residents to air quality concerns due to wildfires.

Health officials warned people to stay indoors, advice followed by the Whidbey Camano Land Trust that canceled a hike Wednesday.

“We postponed our Bounty Loop trail outing scheduled at noon Wednesday due to the present air quality,” Ron Newberry, communications manager, wrote in an email.

People should limit outdoor activity when possible, health officials said. Smoke can irritate eyes and worsen problems for people with pre-existing conditions.

Writing for his Weather and Climate blog, University of Washington atmospheric sciences Professor Cliff Mass said the thick haze is the result of a confluence of weather and fire events.

“Lots of fires around us, a meteorological situation that pushed the smoke to low levels, and the development of an inversion that kept the smoke in place,” he wrote.

Mass wrote that he’s never seen such poor air quality.

“In central Puget Sound it is probably the worst in the nearly two-decade observing record of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency for any time of the year,” Mass stated.

To check smoke conditions around the state: www.wasmoke.blogspot.com.

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