Ferry on Puget Sound in extremely smoking conditions on October 16, 2022.

Worst Air Quality in the World: Washington State

It rains a lot in Seattle. The climate’s much like England‘s.

That was the explanation my brothers and I heard when we’d ask our parents why they’d ultimately chosen to settle in Seattle after our family immigrated from Southampton to the U.S.

We entered the country at LAX in Los Angeles in 1968. A year later, we drove north on Interstate-5 apparently not sure of where we’d stop.

Our journey ended after an 11-hundred mile drive that found us calling Washington State home.

More than a half-century later, many family memories have played-out in the rain…or what I’ve, at times, referred to as life beneath the giant sponge.

But never have we experienced anything like the smothering smoke events of September and October 2022.

And it’s not even close.

The Skykomish River east of Gold Bar, Washington on September 10, 2022.The sky is smoky and golden in color. The sun can be seen through the smoke. Orange light reflects upon the river. Tall trees appear to each side of the river. A mountain is in the distance, beneath the sun.
Wildfire smoke fills the air over the Skykomish River east of Gold Bar, Washington on September 10, 2022.

Temperatures have soared far above the norms. The weather at last Sunday’s Seahawks game resembled summer, not autumn. On that day, the mercury peaked at 88. That’s a whopping 16 degrees above Seattle’s prior record high temperature for October 16.

Snohomish County has been enveloped by strings of consecutive days fueled by wildfire smoke snaking its way down the Cascade Mountains, becoming firmly entrenched in valley floors, and eventually choking visibility over the waters of Puget Sound and beyond.

A headline in Thursday’s Washington Post reads, Why Seattle currently has the worst air quality in the world: Wildfire smoke made the city’s air worse than Delhi’s or Beijing’s — with uncertain health effects.

A weather system over the Pacific Ocean is now moving into Washington, and it’s expected to push the smoke eastward and out of the area over the next few days. We’ll appreciate the relief, and the rain that’s coming, too. But we also know that there is concern about possible flash floods, landslides, and debris flow above highways where the fires scorched mountainsides.

The smoke, itself, was both easy and difficult to take in. There’s been no avoiding it, and not without consequence; even if that seems as slight as a runny nose, cough, or irritated eyes.

However, there’s something else that’s difficult to take in: The full impact of the fires and their smoke. All of that seems yet to be determined, understood.

The wind and rain will clear the air, and thoughts will largely return to life’s usual daily concerns.

It’ll be a welcome return to life beneath the giant sponge, away from the smokiest September and October that I can recall.

At least for another year.

This post includes a playlist of Beyond 90 Seconds videos featuring the smoky conditions. The playlist often addresses the Bolt Creek Fire that started September 10 near Skykomish, Washington.

DISCLAIMER: This page might contain Amazon affiliate links. In the event of a sale, I will be awarded a small commission (at no extra cost for you).

Mark Horner Video & Photography Kit

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