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2020 Seattle smoke season arrives as Washington, Oregon, and California burn — UPDATE: ‘Smoke Alert!’

GOES imagery from Wednesday morning shows smoke moving northward

Unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke and ash that arrived in Seattle following the Labor Day holiday will likely persist and — possibly — increase in the skies above the city into Friday, forecasters say.

Seattle’s air quality Wednesday was considered “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” according to official guidelines and authorities continue to encourage people to stay inside and limit exposure.

UPDATE 9/11/2020: The smoke has arrived. Updates and forecast information here.

‘Super Massive’ smoke plume arrives over Seattle — UPDATE

Officials say “smoke impacts” are being felt over most of the state as large wildfires burn in both Western Washington and east of the Cascades. The next round of smoke will likely be heavier and will flow from fires in California and Oregon:

Critical fire weather conditions will persist in Western Washington today and tomorrow. The breezy east winds have eased some but it will be hot and dry. Fires will remain active and could grow rapidly. Expect winds to transition to a more typical onshore flow on Friday which will help to slow the fire activity down. Smoke is impacting the region from multiple locations. Air quality is expected to continue as-is and get worse Thursday night into Friday, especially in Southwest Washington and the Olympic Peninsula, as smoke from Oregon and California is expected to creep north. See the widespread thick smoke over the Pacific in today’s GOES Imagery.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is warning that it could take even longer to clear Seattle’s air:

We expect air quality to continue to be MODERATE to UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS for the rest of the day on Wednesday and Thursday. These conditions could persist until late this weekend or early next week when westerly winds will bring in cleaner ocean air.

View the latest air quality measurements at

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that more than 300,000 acres had already burned and there were reports from across the state of devastation from the wildfires.

The smoke-filled skies mostly weren’t an issue in Seattle last year but in 2018 we marked a week of poor air quality and grey skies starting in mid-August. In 2017, Seattle’s smoke season started in early August.

After months of COVID-19 restrictions Seattle’s summer of 2020 is ending with a new round of challenges for the socially-distanced. In addition to health concerns and further limiting people’s options for getting out and about, the terrible air quality comes as another challenge for the city’s food and drink industry that has increasingly relied on outdoor dining to attract customers during the ongoing pandemic.

Adding insult to injury, your typical COVID-19 facemask isn’t going to help. Your best bet is to stay inside. The EPA has some tips on other ways to improve your air quality at home but if you haven’t already purchased an air filter system, there isn’t much help. If you’re feeling crafty, this DIY filter might be the way to go.

UPDATE 9/10/2020 10:00 AM: Smoke alert! Latest developments look bad for Friday  as “smoke forecasts show Unhealthy or worse levels starting tonight on the Peninsula and then through the I-5 Corridor.”

UPDATE 9/10/2020 4:15 PM: The forecast for “unhealthy” air over Seattle has firmed. The “Super Massive” smoke plume is headed for Seattle:

We’ll do what we can, but here’s a map of what Friday will bring. Saturday will be worse for most areas, with few clean air getaways possible. “Clean air” will become a relative term for most of this weekend.

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