Smoke chokes Western Oregon: 'We should see dramatic improvement Wednesday'

"The day will start with easterly winds over much of the fires, bringing the smoke westward as shown in Figure 1," a USDA Forest Service forecaster wrote on the Oregon Smoke Information blog. "The map should be interpreted in a relative rather than absolute sense such that area of darker red indicate areas of heavier smoke, and pink indicates areas of light smoke. Much of the Willamette Valley and the northern coast will remain free of smoke, as will much of Central and Eastern Oregon."

EUGENE, Ore. - Can't breathe? You aren't alone.

Lane County residents awoke to Unhealthy levels of particulate matter from wildfire smoke on Monday.

Eugene/Springfield, Cottage Grove and Oakridge all registered in the Red Zone for pollution, with pollutant levels more than triple the healthy level, according to Lane Regional Air Protection Agency monitors.

Oregon DEQ monitors registered similar levels in Roseburg, Medford and Ashland to the south and Sisters to the east.

Eugene/Springfield saw pollution levels rise over the course of the morning, reaching Very Unhealthy levels by the noon hour.

By noon, the Eugene 4J School District had either canceled outdoor activities or moved them inside due to unhealthy air quality.

The culprit? Wildfires burning out of control in the Oregon Cascades, almost border to border; as well as the massive Chetco Bar Fire in the southwest corner of the state and numerous fires in northern California.

Smoke from the fires is reaching as far north as Portland, although in lighter concentrations than in the southern half of the state.

"The effects will be most pronounced today, as southerly flow at the mid-levels will continue to bring smoke from the very active southwest Oregon and northwest California fire up into our area," the National Weather Service in Portland said. "Conditions will gradually begin to improve Tuesday as the flow aloft begins to develop more of a westerly component. Then we should see dramatic improvement Wednesday as the upper trough brings stronger westerly winds."

That relief could begin as early as Monday evening for Eugene/Springfield: a smoke forecast for August 28 predicts a shift in the wind around 5 p.m. which could push the smoke out of the southern Willamette Valley and to the east.

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