Breathe Deep (Soon), Relief From Smoke Stifling Idaho In Sight

Sep 8, 2017

The thick smoke that blanketed the Treasure Valley and much of Idaho is expected to significantly dissipate over the weekend.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Smoke from wildfires in Idaho and neighboring states made the air so bad this week, officials declared a statewide air quality advisory. At times, the smoke brought down visibility to less than a mile and lowered air quality to the purple level – very unhealthy.

We can blame a high pressure system that parked itself over the area for much of the week for socking us in and stifling us with all that smoke. But on Friday, something was different says Mike Toole.

“There’s a low pressure system down by California, and that’s allowed a change in the wind flow from the east to more of the southwest. It’s just caused us to really have a little bit more mixing,” says Toole, an airshed coordinator with Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality.

He says things should continue to clear out this weekend. The air quality forecast for the next several days should fluctuate between orange – unhealthy, and yellow which is moderate. It could be a momentary reprieve.

“There is another shift in the weather that at this point is expected maybe Monday, Sunday afternoon,” Tool says. “At that point, we’ll also have concerns about what kind of smoke we may get from the Washington-Oregon area.”

With a chance of showers in some regions, the air could get a good scrubbing in the lull between smoke events. But, says meteorologist Bill Wojcik, the storms move out by Sunday and the winds change.

“So we do get back into a westerly flow, and with all the wildfires still to our west and northwest, some of that smoke could return,” he says.

According to the National Weather Service forecaster, there’s reason for optimism.

“Even if we get the smoke in here Sunday-Monday, it looks like it could be temporary and we maybe push that out of here by Tuesday-Wednesday,” says Wojcik.

The extended forecast shows a cooling trend with possible storms in the Treasure Valley starting Wednesday.

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