Red Sun

The sun is seen next to the chimney of the former steam heating plant Monday at Central Washington University. Smoke from fires in the region is expected to remain through this weekend into next week.

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Although Kittitas County and Central Washington can expect to see more smoke filtering into the area over the weekend, there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel toward the end of next week.

According to National Weather Service Pendleton office Meteorologist Roger Cloutier, both Central and Eastern Washington are currently under an air quality alert due to the smoke. The alert, which is issued through Monday, advises people to stay in their homes, avoid excess activity outdoors and filter and recirculate the air within living spaces to prevent the smoke from entering.

In many areas in the region, Cloutier said visibility has dropped to below a quarter of a mile, although he said Ellensburg and Yakima are currently not experiencing the levels of smoke seen in other parts of the region.

“The smoke will increase there during the weekend as the flow turns from the northwest to the southwest,” he said. “When the winds begin coming from the southwest, it will push that smoke into Central Washington, but right now the thickest smoke is from the Tri-Cities area southward.”

Cloutier said wind speeds are expected to increase Sunday, followed by a cold front on Monday.

“We’re hoping that will help mix out the smoke,” he said. “However, it’s going to take a fairly stronger cold front later in the week with an upper pressure system that will be moving during the latter half of the week which should push all the smoke out of the area, or at least most of the smoke.”

Cloutier said the forecast for Central Washington going into next week has a small chance of rain. If the region receives the rain, he said besides the obvious effect of helping suppress wildfires, the precipitation and higher relative humidity combined with cooler temperatures will help clear out the atmosphere.

“It won’t be significant,” he said. “We’re not expecting a lot of rain, right now just a chance of showers. There also could be some thunderstorms, but that’s mostly in the Cascades and the Northeast Oregon and Southeast Washington mountains.”

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