Warnings issued as unhealthy air drapes Edmonds

Activities canceled or moved inside; Yost Pool closes
By Brian Soergel | Aug 22, 2018
Courtesy of: Linda Ross Linda Ross took this shot of the sun and smoke Friday, Aug. 17, from aboard the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

The lingering smoky skies and shocking decrease in air quality, in addition to creating unhealthy conditions, have robbed Edmonds and Puget Sound of many of its prime sunshiny days, as well as its prideful reputation of having the country’s best summer weather.

After a brief respite over the weekend, thick smoke from fires in British Columbia, eastern Washington, Oregon and California returned Monday in a sort of perfect storm, coating Edmonds with ugly, brown stuff thick enough to dissolve views.

Yep – you could smell and taste the air as it stung your eyes.

“I grew up in the ‘60s in Southern California, and that's what this reminds me of,” said Chuck Sigars, who writes the “Chuck’s World” column in the Beacon. “I have clear memories of the smog and haze, and my chest hurting, and this feels very familiar.”

City Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas has lived in Edmonds 30 years. She said she’s never seen the air this horrible.

“My eyes are watering and breathing is difficult,” she said. “I am doubling up on inhalers and keeping doors and windows closed when possible.”

It was bad enough that the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the local health jurisdictions of King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties urged residents to stay inside when possible. A burn ban was also ordered.

The National Weather Service reported Wednesday that there will be some improvement in air quality on Thursday and into the weekend.

It wasn’t uncommon to see people on Edmonds streets with dust masks – those who could find them.

At Edmonds Hardware & Paint, Mike Parsons said he sold out of the approved N95 masks but was hoping to get a new supply the next day. The store has also sold plenty of furnace filters and box fans.

“People are concerned,” Parson said. “Even if not buying anything, they’re talking about it. We usually don’t sell that many masks. People are trying to beat the smoke.”

At Swedish Edmonds hospital, spokeswoman Karrie Spitzer said on Monday that three patients had checked in with conditions possibly due to poor air quality.

Spitzer added that she anticipated Swedish Edmonds would have an uptick in respiratory complaints and generalized illness the rest of the week, with the air quality and the increase in temperature that refused to leave.

The effects of the air pollution were felt in many facets of everyday life.

On Monday, and through Wednesday, the City of Edmonds joined the surrounding Puget Sound region in battling poor air quality due to wildfire smoke, warning community members to take precautions, such as avoiding outdoor activities if possible.

The City postponed its staff softball game against the City of Mountlake Terrace due to air quality concerns; Dale Turner YMCA, which operates Yost Pool, closed the pool for a couple of days.

All City of Edmonds summer camps were moved indoors. Adult softball leagues were canceled.

The Skyhawks Sports Academy moved some of its youth activities into the gym at the Frances Anderson Center.

In the Edmonds School District, all sports practices were moved inside, including cross-country, football, boys tennis and girls soccer. The Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale girls swim teams were set to practice at an outdoor pool this week. That didn’t happen.

The foul air has also kept shoppers and tourists off Edmonds streets.

“When the Health Department broadcasts reports for people to stay home to avoid exposure to particulate matter in the atmosphere, it totally affects the amount of people coming out to shop,” said Tracy Felix, president of the Downtown Edmonds Merchant Association and co-owner of ARTspot on Main Street.

“I am confident in saying local businesses would more than appreciate patrons coming out to support us at this point in the month, as we all were hit with a downturn during the smoke.”

Air quality updates and recent conditions can be found on the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s website at www.pscleanair.org/. According to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, wildfire smoke can cause a range of health problems, including trouble breathing, coughing, stinging eyes, irritated sinuses, headaches, asthma attacks, chest pain and a rapid heartbeat.

When smoky conditions are as bad as they have been, everyone should take precautions, especially children, older adults, pregnant women, those who have heart or lung issues (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD), and those who have had a stroke. Precautions include:

  • Stay indoors when possible.
  • Limit your physical activity outdoors, such as running, bicycling, physical labor, and sports.
  • Close windows in your home, if possible, and keep the indoor air clean. If you have an air conditioner, use the “recirculation” switch. Use an indoor air filter if available.
  • If you do not have an air conditioner, consider finding a public place with clean, air-conditioned indoor air like a public library or a community center.
  • Avoid driving when possible. If you must drive, keep the windows closed. If you use the car’s fan or air conditioning, make sure the system recirculates air from inside the car; don’t pull air from outside.
  • Schools, camps, sports teams, and daycare providers should consider postponing outdoor activities or moving them indoors.
  • N95 or N100 rated masks can help protect some people from air pollution. These masks are usually available at hardware and home repair stores. Check with your doctor to see if this appropriate for you.

As always, check with your health-care provider for more specific questions and concerns.

To learn more about wildfire smoke, and to subscribe to updates, visit the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s website (https://bit.ly/2nSNlkH).


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