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Wildfire smoke should blow away, but the skies won’t clear

Downtown Bellingham Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Smoke from forest fires in British Columbia continues to cover Whatcom County, but should begin clearing by midday Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
Downtown Bellingham Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Smoke from forest fires in British Columbia continues to cover Whatcom County, but should begin clearing by midday Friday, according to the National Weather Service. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

After nearly two months with barely any measurable rainfall in Western Washington, cloudy skies and showers are forecast for the weekend.

With the rain comes a change in wind direction that should clear Whatcom County’s air of smoke that’s blown south from dozens of forest fires burning in British Columbia.

“Less smoke, more rain,” said meteorologist Gary Schneider at the National Weather Service in Seattle. “It’s not going to rain a lot. But (the smoke) should be out of here on Saturday and we have a front coming in Saturday night.”

Smoke should begin clearing by midday Friday, Schneider said. Clouds will begin gathering Friday afternoon. Expect mostly cloudy skies Saturday, with a 30 percent chance of showers in the evening and a 60 percent chance of showers Sunday.

Schneider said only about a quarter-inch of rain is expected.

A slight chance of showers remains Monday, the first day of the Northwest Washington Fair, and continues into Tuesday. Sunny skies are forecast by Wednesday.

In addition, lower temperatures are forecast for the next several days. Highs should be in the mid-70s next Friday, with highs in the low 70s through that weekend. Overnight lows will be in the high 50s.

“It’ll be typical summer weather and a little cooler” next week, Schneider said. Winds from the west should keep the wildfire smoke away, he added.

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Smoke from forest fires in British Columbia continues to cover farmland south of Ferndale in haze Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Smoke should begin clearing by midday Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Philip A. Dwyer pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Meanwhile, air quality improved somewhat Thursday in some parts of Whatcom County, after two days of “unhealthy” air in Bellingham and the Mount Baker foothills.

Readings of “unhealthy for sensitive groups” were recorded Thursday afternoon in Bellingham and Maple Falls, according to the state Department of Ecology website. Readings in Lynden were “moderate,” with “good” air readings at one measuring station in Ferndale and “unhealthy for sensitive groups” at another Ferndale location.

This weekend’s rain comes as Seattle is experiencing a record dry spell of 54 days without measurable rain, Scheider said. During that period, Bellingham received 0.08 inches of rain in two days in July.

There’s been no rain in Bellingham so far in August and less than 2 inches of rain has fallen locally since May 1. Such dry conditions aren’t unusual for summer in Western Washington, Scheider said.

Nevertheless, Whatcom County fire officials are enforcing a burn ban that prohibits all outdoor burning, including recreational fires. Propane fire pits and outdoor grills are allowed.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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