PENDLETON — Air quality in much of Eastern Oregon may be extremely poor this weekend.
The National Weather Service in Pendleton issued an air quality advisory Thursday, Sept. 10, due to smoke from wildfires burning on the west side of Oregon and in western Washington and California.
The five largest wildfires in Oregon have burned more than 750,000 acres, according to the Oregon Fires and Hotspots Dashboard, and statewide the total is more than 900,000 acres.
La Grande’s air quality as of Friday morning was in the moderate range, according to the website airnow.gov. The Weather Service warned smoke from the wildfires will cause air quality in Eastern Oregon to plummet to unhealthy and even hazardous levels.
“When smoke levels are hazardous,” the advisory states, “everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves.”
Unhealthy air quality means everyone, especially sensitive groups, should limit time spent outdoors, avoid strenuous activities and choose light indoor activities. The advisory will be in effect at least through noon Monday, said Ann Adams, an assistant meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Pendleton.
Adams said smoke has started coming into Eastern Oregon because of a change in wind direction.
Wind is now blowing east from the Cascades, pushing smoke in the direction of Northeast Oregon.
The wind was blowing west earlier, containing the smoke from the wildfire to western Oregon.
“It made a 180 degree-switch,” Adams said.
The smoke blowing from the west is having a major impact on visibility across the rest of the state. Adams said that as of 8 a.m. Friday, the visibility in The Dalles was three-quarters of a mile and that it was less than a mile in Redmond and Bend.
Adams said conditions could improve early next week because of a weather system in the Pacific Ocean that could deliver rain, which would douse fires and shift the wind direction. The weather system could arrive as early as Tuesday.
“That system is pretty far out right now,” Adams said.
The following is advice from the National Weather Service for protecting yourself when smoke levels are high:
•Avoid outdoor activities and stay inside if possible. Keep windows and doors closed.
•Be aware of smoke in your area and avoid places with the highest levels.
•Use high efficiency particulate air filters.
•If you have heart disease, lung disease, or asthma, follow your health care provider’s advice.
•Consider leaving the area if smoke levels are hazardous and you have heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions.