David Kroman is the city reporter for Crosscut.
Aug 21, 2018
For the third summer in a row, the Pacific Northwest city is blanketed in air pollution from massive wildfires nearby. This is the worst year yet.
The tradeoff of a grey Seattle winter has always been its bluebird summers. But for the last three years, smoke has drifted into the city from huge wildfires burning in the drier parts of Canada and the Cascade Mountains, first blurring and then completely obscuring the city’s famous views in every direction.
This is the worst year yet. University of Washington weather expert Cliff Mass reported that, on Monday afternoon, a Puget Sound Clean Air Agency site in the city recorded the highest levels of smoke for a one-hour period since monitoring began about two decades ago. Last Wednesday, he reported that two spots in the region had recorded the worst 24 hours of air quality on record for either spot.
As the chronically smoggy Chinese megacity of Beijing enjoyed “moderate” breathing conditions Monday, some areas around Puget Sound saw the air downgraded to “unhealthy” for everyone. With that rating has come a minor panic, as the region bends around the hazards of the smoke as it might for a blizzard in the winter.