Residents who woke up with bloodshot eyes and sore throats should try shutting the window before taking that COVID-19 test: Lewis County’s air quality is reaching hazardous levels in some areas.
As of Thursday morning, air in Chehalis had reached the “very unhealthy” category of the air quality index while Packwood, shrouded by smoke from the Goat Rocks Fire, was categorized as “hazardous,” according to the fire and smoke map by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The map shows real time measurements of air quality on a scale where 0-50 is considered good, 51-100 is moderate, 101-150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups, 151-200 is unhealthy, 201-300 is very unhealthy and everything over 301 is considered hazardous. To find an area on the map, visit https://fire.airnow.gov/.
With Chehalis reaching 280 on Thursday morning, all members of the population are vulnerable to the effects of the very unhealthy air.
Uri Papish, executive director of the Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency, said residents should try to reduce their exposure to the outdoor air and filter indoor air to keep it cleaner. For those who are unable to filter their air, Papish recommended leaving the area in favor of cleaner air.
For anyone who is required to be outside, he said he would recommend using an N95 mask, which filters out the particulate matter which drops the quality of air. With wildfire smoke covering the region, he said the agency’s office in Vancouver was closed due to the health risks involved with working in a building without an air filter.
According to Samantha Borth with the National Weather Service in Seattle, rain and wind coming in around Friday in what she called “the first really fall-like weather system” will help improve the air. Rain, she said, scours the particulate matter out of the air and wind pushes smoke and helps it disperse.
Papish said the clean air agency was forecasting air conditions to improve by Thursday afternoon and anticipated that with cooler weather into the weekend, the air quality should improve drastically.
The air quality has been impacted mainly by wildfire smoke from fires throughout Washington and Oregon, intensified by a relatively dry early October and light winds, according to Papish and Borth.
To read more about the air quality index scale, visit https://www.airnow.gov/aqi/aqi-basics/.