Smoky Skies but OK Air?

Local air agency says air is currently healthy

The skies are smokey all day. The moon is a creepy red at night. At least the sunsets are fantastic lately, but the wildfire smoke is hanging over Lane County in an apocalyptic haze this week.

There are fires to the south of us and around the West — Oregon is reporting nine large fires the National Interagency Fire Center says — and a large swathe of Oregon is in an extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

While Portland and Southern Oregon are reporting air quality issues, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA)’s air quality monitors show Eugene-Springfield as in the healthy range. How can that be?

Jo Niehaus, LRAPA public affairs, tells EW that, “Yes, the monitors are reading a cleaner air quality index (AQI) than what people expect when they see all the smoke and haze in the air.”

But Niehaus says, “The upper atmosphere haze and smoke starts between 3000 – 5000 feet in the air, which doesn’t get picked up by our air monitors at the ground level.

She says that luckily, that higher altitude smoke has not settled back into the valley and that at the ground level the area is getting some winds from the West, helping to clear the air.

As long as the winds continue, she says that “people can expect to see some fairly good air quality in the metro area this weekend.”

“However, ” Niehaus warns, “with it being wildfire season, it won’t be long before we get some more intrusions — especially if the upper level particulates start to settle.”

She says LRAPA always encourages people to check outside and check the air quality on the LRAPA website or Oregon Department of Environmental Quality website before any rigorous outdoor activities during the wildfire season.