SEATTLE-smoke from forest fires blocked the sky above US-West, wipe out mountains and skylines from Oregon to Colorado, delaying flights and forcing authorities to say healthy adults in the Seattle area to stay indoors.
How big cities treated unhealthy air for a second summer in a row, experts warned that it could become more frequent as the American West faces bigger and more destructive forest fires due to heat and drought blamed on climate change. Officials also need to prioritize resources during the longer fire season, so that some blazing may burn in uninhabited areas.
Seattle’s Space Needle was lost in the haze, and it was impossible to see the nearby mountains. The inhabitants of Portland, Oregon, who got up early, saw a blood-red sun enveloped in smoke and coughed their way through another day of polluted air. Portland Public Schools suspended all outdoor sports practices.
The strong smoke in Denver blocked the view of some of Colorado’s famous mountains and caused an air quality health counseling for the North-Eastern district of the state.
The smoky pollution, also in Idaho and Colorado, came from forest fires in British Columbia and the Northwest Cascade Mountains, the turbidity of a season that many spend outdoors.
Portland resident Zach Simon supervised a group of children in a summer biking camp, pausing at a huge fountain on the Willamette River, where gray, smoky haze obscures a view of Mount Hood.
Simon said that he would not allow the children to drive as far or take part in as many running games like tag, while the air quality is poor.
“I went Cycling yesterday, and I really felt it in my lungs, and I was really headachy and like, lethargic,” Simon said on Monday. “Today, Cycling, you can see the whole city in haze and you can not see the skyline.”
One of Colin Shor’s favorite activities in the Denver area is the view of the high peaks in the West. But that was all, but Monday away.
“Unable to see the mountains is somehow disappointing, somehow sad,” he said.
Forest fires are common, but typical Seattle-area weather pushes it out of the way quickly. The recent round of longer smoke happened as hot temperatures and high pressure collided, said Andrew Wineke, a spokesman for the state Ecology Department air quality program.
It is a rare event that has also happened last year, the concerns for many locals that it has become normal during the forest fire season. Wineke said climate change is expected to contribute to many more fires.
“The trend is clear. You see, the number of forest fires increases, and so there will be forest fires,” said Wineke. “There will be smoke. It’ll be somewhere.”
The Federal Aviation Administration said aircraft bound for the Sea-Tac International Airport, Seattle’s main airport, can be delayed because of poor visibility.
In Spokane, the air quality slipped into the “dangerous” area. Washington’s second-largest city had a dense haze that forced vehicles to turn on the headlights during the morning’s drive.
The air quality was so bad that everyone, regardless of physical condition or age, will probably be affected, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency.
In California, wind blew smoke from several forest fires into the San Francisco Bay Area, where haze led authorities to issue air quality advice by Tuesday. They suggested people to avoid driving to limit additional pollutants in the air and advised those with health problems to reduce outdoor time.
Health officials say symptoms of smoke – related health symptoms are cough, scratchy throat, irritated sinuses, headaches, stinging eyes, and runny nose. Those with heart disease may experience chest pain, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Patients in Denver, National Jewish Health, a respiratory hospital, reported worsening of symptoms, hospital spokesman Adam Dormuth said.
In Portland, six tourists from Lincoln, Nebraska, posing for a photo in front of the Willamette River with the usual Mount Hood background wrapped in haze. The group of siblings and friends rented a motorhome and drove to visit a sister who recently moved to the area.
“We are disappointed that we cannot see the mountains and the whole city because our relatives live here and tell us how pretty it is and we miss it,” said Bev Harris. “We are from tornado alley, and we have no forest fires. It’s a different experience.”