After days of smoky skies, clearing expected for Whatcom County going into the weekend

Finally! After 83 days look what happened in Whatcom County

Bellingham has not seen more than a tenth of an inch of rain since June 16 - a record 83 days - until a brief shower Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.
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Bellingham has not seen more than a tenth of an inch of rain since June 16 - a record 83 days - until a brief shower Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.

You can finally play outside without fearing for your lungs since the smoky haze in Whatcom County started to subside on Friday.

“It looks like it could be clearing out from what I’ve seen online this morning, at least through the weekend,” said Seth Preston, spokesman for Northwest Clean Air Agency.

Air quality in Whatcom County and other parts of Western Washington had been poor for days because of wildfires in Eastern Washington and neighboring states.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, air quality was moderate but edging toward good in Bellingham and Columbia Valley, and was good in Lynden and Custer, according to Northwest Clean Air Agency monitors.

Air quality in Western Washington was expected to improve, represented on maps by green dots, throughout the Friday thanks to light winds, according to the Washington Smoke Information blog.

“Reason air quality hasn’t yet gone all green is because (1) onshore winds are very light (< 5 mph) so ventilation is limited, and (2) some light Oregon/ California smoke hanging aloft has likely mixed down,” according to the blog, which is maintained by a number of agencies and tribes.

The wildfire smoke that’s been hanging around in Western Washington should completely clear out and stay that way through Sunday and possibly Monday, according to the blog. But some smoke could return Tuesday along the Interstate 5 corridor.

Conditions also are expected to improve east of the Cascades, but not by much and not for long.

Forecasts call for cooler temperatures, clouds and showers in Western Whatcom County through Saturday. Highs are expected to be in the mid-60s. Rainfall could be as much as one-tenth of an inch to a quarter-inch of rain, according to the National Weather Service.

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Philip A. Dwyer pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Rain fell on Bellingham Friday morning and was accompanied by some lightning and thunder.

But it wasn’t clear Friday whether the amount that fell was enough to break the record drought in “wetting rain,” described as more than a tenth of an inch.

The last time more than a tenth of an inch of rain fell in Bellingham was June 16, when .11-inch was measured at the official National Weather Service spot at Bellingham International Airport. Thursday was the 83rd straight day of less than 0.10 inch of precipitation, the most since record-keeping began here in 1949.

On Friday, the National Weather Service said initial data showed only a trace fell at the airport, although that could change with additional calculations.

Al and Catherine Major, who live where Old Fairhaven Parkway crosses Padden Creek, told The Bellingham Herald their Davis weather station, with a rain gauge, measured .20 inches.

As for Sunday, it will be partly sunny, with highs in the upper 60s to mid-70s, according to the National Weather Service.

Keep updated on smoky conditions by going online to wasmoke.blogspot.com.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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