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Update posted at 12 p.m. Sept. 14

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Lane Regional Air Protection Agency and the Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency extended an air quality advisory Monday for all regions of Oregon and Southwest Washington due to smoke from fires in Oregon, Washington and California.

DEQ expects the air quality advisory to last at least through Thursday. DEQ and partner agencies will continue to monitor smoke in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Smoke levels are fluctuating between unhealthy (red) and hazardous (maroon) for Oregon and Southwest Washington. When smoke levels are hazardous everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves.

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions by visiting the Oregon Smoke Information blog, downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone, or going to on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow.

Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. Young children, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions are most at risk.

Protect your health 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.
  • Use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These can be portable filters or can be installed in indoor heating, ventilation, cooling and air purification systems. You can also create your own air purifying filter by following these easy DIY air filter instructions.
  • Check with your local health department or this 211 list to see if they have community clean air shelters set up where people can get temporary relief from the smoke.
  • If you have heart or lung disease or asthma, follow your healthcare provider’s advice.
  • Consider leaving the area if smoke levels are hazardous and you have heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions. Otherwise, please wait to be directed to evacuate. Pay attention to evacuation notices. If you choose to leave the area, remember to take face coverings and hand sanitizer with you to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Cloth, dust and surgical masks don’t protect from the harmful particles in smoke. N95 respirators that are tested to ensure proper fit and that are worn correctly may provide protection. Otherwise, they might just provide a false sense of security. They are not available in children’s sizes and are not recommended for strenuous activities. N95 respirators are in limited supply due to COVID-19. Additional information on wildfire smoke and COVID-19 can be found on the Centers for Disease Control webpage.

DEQ’s color-coded Air Quality Index provides current air quality conditions and ranks air quality as follows: Green is good. Yellow is moderate. Orange is unhealthy for sensitive groups such as children, seniors, pregnant women and those with respiratory conditions. Red is unhealthy for everyone. Purple is very unhealthy for everyone. Maroon is hazardous.

Find more information: Oregon Smoke Information blog

Several highways and roads are closed around Oregon. Check TripCheck for the latest information.

Previous Chronicle coverage posted at 6:45 a.m. Sept. 14

The National Weather Service has issued a Dense Fog Advisory and a Dense Smoke Advisory due to the current weather conditions in the region.

Downtown St. Helens

Fog and smoke lingered in downtown St. Helens early Monday morning.

WHAT

Widespread fog and smoke, with visibilities frequently around at or less than a quarter of a mile. Visibilities will gradually improve 1 to 2 miles through this afternoon. Worst conditions will be this morning in the lower elevations, below 1500 feet.

WHERE

In Oregon, Lower Columbia, Greater Portland Metro Area, Central Willamette Valley, South Willamette Valley, Northern Oregon Cascade Foothills and Cascade Foothills in Lane County. In Washington, I-5 Corridor in Cowlitz County andGreater Vancouver Area.

WHEN

For the Dense Fog Advisory, until noon PDT today. For the Dense Smoke Advisory, until 6 p.m. this evening.

IMPACTS

Hazardous driving conditions due to low visibility.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS

Very unhealthy air quality conditions due to the dense smoke will continue into Monday. For more information on latest air quality conditions, go online to the the Oregon Department of Environment Quality or the Southwest Clean Air Agency, or the Lane Regional Air Pollution Agency.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS

Persons with respiratory illnesses should remain indoors to avoid inhaling smoke. If driving, slow down, use your headlights, and leave plenty of distance ahead of you. Take special care in towns and urban areas, as pedestrians and cyclists may be difficult to see.

The Graphic

Driving advisory

With heavy smoke and fog blanketing much of the state, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is reminding drivers the best thing they can do to stay safe is avoid driving unless absolutely.

  • Remember to check conditions if you must head out. A number of roads remain closed throughout the state. Go to Tripcheck.com or call 5-1-1 for real time road conditions.
  • If you encounter heavy smoke while driving here are some steps you can take to help stay safe:
  • Slow down and stay alert. Slow driving gives you more time to respond to unexpected conditions.
  • Turn on your headlights. Even during daylight hours your headlights will help others on the road see you. Use low-beams as high-beams reflect off the moisture in the air and cause glare.
  • Use fog lights. If you have them, fog lights can help cut through the smoke.
  • Keep plenty of space between you and other vehicles. Visibility, of course, decreases in smoke so maintain a safe stopping distance between you and the vehicle up front.
  • If visibility becomes too dangerous to continue, pull off to the side of the road as soon as safely possible.
  • Never stop in a travel lane. Look for a safe area completely off the road if possible and turn off all lights, including flashers, until it’s safe to continue.
  • Don’t tailgate. Keep a steady, reliable pace. Remember that everyone else on the road is in the same fix you’re in. They’re counting on you to help show the way.

Follow developments here online and in the Wednesday print editions of The Chronicle.

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