Stuck in smoke

Hazy sky expected to linger

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Danny Cutting, of Coeur d'Alene, casts his line into the Spokane River Monday. There is smoke in the background.

We're stuck in a "pot dome" and Ma Nature won't lift the lid on us and the wildfire smoke for awhile, says Cliff Harris.

Without much precipitation expected for the next week, the climatologist said it may be next week at the earliest before the area is completely relieved of the smoke.

"We need to have a storm, and I think we'll get one in early October," Harris said. "We're just not there yet."

Harris said it could be worse.

We could still be in the 80s and there could be high winds, fanning the flames of the regional wildfires. Highs in the mid-70s and lows in the 40s are in the forecast.

Ralph Paul, airshed coordinator with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, said the air quality throughout North Idaho remains "Moderate" - one stage above "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups."

"The air quality hasn't changed much since things got bad on Friday," Paul said. "It's been consistently bad because of the high pressure over the area."

Paul said the smoke in North Idaho can't be pinpointed on any particular wildfire over another, but just wildfires throughout the region in general.

People sensitive to poor air quality should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

A burn ban remained in effect on Monday and conditions will be re-evaluated today, Paul said.

Harris said this area has only had 0.23 of an inch of rain since July 20, making it even drier than the 0.37 of an inch recorded during the Dust Bowl of 1934. The dry spell comes on the heels on the wettest spring on record.

Kenneth Wakefield, an asthma and allergy specialist at Asthma and Allergy of Idaho in Coeur d'Alene, said more patients are complaining about breathing, eye or nasal issues due to the smoke, but they're not necessarily coming in specifically for those reasons.

"What I'm mostly hearing from people is that they have scratchy throats or eyes," Wakefield said. "You can't prove that it's from the bad air quality, but I suspect it is."

Wakefield said many people like to keep their windows open at night this time of year, but they may have to stop that or reduce outdoor exercising if their breathing is affected. He said he may also increase asthma medication dosages for some patients.

"Other than that, there's not a lot you can do," he said.

Most other areas of the region have worse air quality than the Panhandle.

Some areas in Central Washington on Monday ranged from "Unhealthy" to "Hazardous." In most of eastern Washington, the air was "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups."

In the Orofino area, some residents are wearing dust masks to help with breathing.

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