The smoke caused by the fires in Central and Western Oregon may clear a bit by the end of the week.

According to Mike Murphy, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Pendleton, beginning tomorrow through Friday, westerly winds may improve the air quality.

“It should take out some of the smoke and haze,” Murphy said.

There’s also a 25 percent chance of rain beginning Thursday evening through Friday, Murphy said. However, thunderstorms, including lightning strikes, may come along with the rain.

“We issued a fire watch for the lightning,” Murphy said.

Because of the smoky conditions, coupled with the potential for more fires, an air quality alert was issued for most of the state Tuesday.

The alert warns that pollutants in the air can cause eyes to burn and aggravate the symptoms of heart and lung diseases and other serious health problems.

In Union and Wallowa counties, the alert will be in effect until noon on Friday.

“A smoky air quality alert has been issued,” according to the notice on the National Weather Service’s website. “Wildfires burning in the region combined with forecast conditions will cause air quality to remain at unhealthy levels.

“Limit outdoor activities and follow medical advice if you have a heart or lung condition,” the alert advised.

The Oregon Health Authority is also warning of the health risks involved with the smoky air.

“People should be aware of smoke levels in their area and avoid the places with highest concentrations,” said Dr. Ann Thomas, public health physician at the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division.

High temperatures can also increase levels of ozone, a pollutant that can irritate the lungs, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Some good news is in sight, though. Temperatures will begin to cool down, at least for the next week.

Murphy said the high in La Grande on Friday is expected to be 83 degrees, and Saturday should only reach 82.

Looking back to August, the month overall was the seventh warmest on record, he said.

The highest recorded low temperature in August was 72 degrees. The warmest low on record was in 1957 at 73.9 degrees.

The average temperature for August was 72 degrees, 3 degrees above normal. High temperatures averaged 90.8 degrees, 5.1 degrees above normal, according to preliminary data received by NOAA’s National Weather Service. The highest was 100 degrees on the 30th. Low temperatures averaged 53.3 degrees, 1 degree above normal. The lowest was 44 degrees on the 15th. On 18 days, the temperature exceeded 90 degrees.

Precipitation totaled 0.21 inches during August, 0.64 inches below normal, according to the weather service. Measurable precipitation of at least .01 inch was received on two days with the heaviest, 0.16 inches, reported on the 14th. Precipitation this year has reached 11.47 inches, 0.60 inches above normal. Since October, the water year precipitation at La Grande has been 17.31 inches, which is 1.46 inches above normal.

The outlook for September calls for above normal temperatures and near normal precipitation, according to the weather service. Normal highs for La Grande fall from 82 degrees at the start of September to 70 degrees at the end of September. Normal lows fall from 49 degrees to 39 degrees. The 30-year normal precipitation is 0.67 inches.

The National Weather Service is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department.

Contact Cherise Kaechele at ckaechele@lagrandeobserver.com. Follow Cherise on Twitter @lgoKaechele

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