Oregon is burning. Where can I go to be in the least smoke?
August 22, 2015 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Hi all - as you may or may not know, there are tons of forest fires in the Pacific Northwest. Today, Portland, OR was inundated with a ton of smoke. As someone with asthma, it's been pretty tough to handle. Where can I drive to be in an area with less smoky conditions? More below the fold.

I've looked at all the information I found through an easy google search, and I'm already doing the basics (staying inside, etc.), but tomorrow I'd like to drive somewhere else where it's not as bad, if possible (I've read on DEQs website that the smoke is supposed to get even worse in Portland tomorrow). The trouble is, when I look at DEQ's air quality website, they have limited air monitoring stations, and all the ones nearby are red (i.e., bad!). When I looked at the US Forest Service model showing all the smoke - it looked like there was smoke over all of Oregon and nearby Washington! Does anyone know what the air quality is like by the coast? Tillamook, etc? This seems to be our best bet for now - can anyone confirm? If anyone has other ideas of a drive within 2-3 hours where the air quality is slightly better, can you please let me know? I have to work on Monday so I can't drive too far away. Thank you!
posted by FireFountain to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I just did a quick search for the air quality at Cannon Beach and Tillamook, and PM2.5 levels were hazardous today. I would guess that it's really safest to stay inside for right now.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:48 PM on August 22, 2015

Department of Environmental Quality - http://www.deq.state.or.us/aqi/index.aspx

The coast is probably the best bet - other than that Roseburg.
posted by iamabot at 7:49 PM on August 22, 2015

Response by poster: Should have included this in my original ask, but this is the smoke model website I found, and yes, I was also using the DEQ Air Quality site iamabot linked. Thanks again for the responses.
posted by FireFountain at 8:14 PM on August 22, 2015

Best answer: FireFountain - that's the site I was going to recommend, and the local weather people here in Hood River are saying it's the good one. (It's been right so far, and they warned people to close windows last night based on it, and sure enough, the smoke showed up overnight.

Here's some more links:
GeoMAC Viewer
Oregon Smoke Information
Washington Smoke Information

There are a lot of links to OR/WA webcams (not just in the Gorge) on Hood River Weather - could be another resource.

About all I can say is the Gorge is definitely not good - though I've heard that because we don't have sufficient air quality monitors, it may LOOK like it's good. Visibility was perhaps a quarter mile this afternoon? If that? I've also heard that The Dalles is significantly worse, though it's hard to imagine.

An awful lot of people from the Gorge are at, headed to, or considering heading to the coast - so don't be surprised if there's a lot of other people who could escape that end up there, too. We're discussing whether to do throw tents and sleeping bags in the car and do so ourselves for a day or two. But we're in a relatively high-risk area if something happens nearby, my oldest son (and right hand) is on the fire department, so if we need to evacuate, it's on me to organize... and as a result, I'm dealing with being scared to leave by prepping instead.
posted by stormyteal at 9:45 PM on August 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

That smoke is all the way to Utah.
posted by Oyéah at 10:31 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

The above-linked smoke information map shows that Aberdeen is green. I have driven through Aberdeen three times and stayed there once, briefly, and it seems like that could be a decent escape city, if you are okay with a historic-type town that isn't especially set up for tourists. I stopped at a big grocery story that had some good produce, and I stayed at a charming local hotel that had a nice friendly staff.
posted by isthmus at 10:56 PM on August 22, 2015

Well, at least according to the maps linked here, Astoria, Oregon on the coast looks to be getting clear right about now, with it getting clearer over the next day before Portland does. So, it might be better than Portland as the smoke is blowing eastward, but it's almost a two-hour drive too. If I were you and I were seriously considering it, I'd look up the air quality online (I tried quickly and couldn't find it) and I'd call hotels/hospital/police/fire and ask them how it is there.

It should blow over soon (well, hopefully) but you may want to go buy an N95 mask that will filter out a lot of the smoke particles in the air just so you won't need to flee the city if this continues. You could buy a N100 mask even if you want. (N95 filters out the particles in the air 95%, the N100 is close to 100%.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:32 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I use airnow.gov and yes, the smoke is everywhere. I live in Reno, NV and our air quality is horrible right now because of the fires in the west. I don't have any advice other than check airnow and see if you can check which way the smoke is supposed to go and go the other way.
posted by Polgara at 11:43 PM on August 22, 2015

Drive north?

I'm in Vancouver, BC and smoke is not an issue at all. That's a 5hr drive, but Seattle is around 3hr and might be nice. Or the coast around there. At least, Seattle should have a smoke monitors to check.
posted by raeka at 12:01 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

yes, Seattle is also completely unaffected. You could take a ferry to Bainbridge or Vaschon island and get really pristine air.
posted by sweltering at 1:54 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Stay at a newer high rise hotel with a good ventilation system? That might be quicker and easier.
posted by jbenben at 5:34 AM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Coming to say what jbenben said. I use the HotelTonight app for same day reservations and get really good rates in Portland and Seattle, usually 4* hotels for 75% off. I have some discount codes if you'd like one.

Also, I guess Seattle has been affected; just not noticeably where I am. We've thought about clearing out to the Long Beach Peninsula. Seaview, WA, Moclips, WA, Long Beach, WA, and Ilwaco, WA. There are lots of great, weird hotels around there - it's one of our favorite stays.
posted by sweltering at 5:44 AM on August 23, 2015

RE: Seattle. Yesterday the wind shifted and you could see a huge plume of smoke move in. It's high, though, so it seems like cloud cover; that could change. In fact, anything could change anytime. I wouldn't go too far from home, it's such a volatile situation. (Two weeks ago Bellingham, WA had Beijing quality air for a couple of days from a huge fire in the center of Vancouver Island.)

It's hard -- bad air + breathing problems is so primal, you just want to Get Away Now! Good luck.
posted by kestralwing at 5:45 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

That smoke is all the way to Utah.

It is past Utah and well into Colorado.

You are probably best to head for the coast. There will be parts where the winds are headed inland, and those areas will be clear. Alternatively, head for altitude - the smoke is heavier and packs into valleys. If you head up, it gets better.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:20 AM on August 23, 2015

While you are figuring this out, purchasing a good face mask can help reduce the amount of particles you are breathing in. Or if the air quality of wherever you are going changes quickly you can use the mask as well.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:52 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm in Lincoln City right now, and it's very nice at the moment. I can't smell any smoke - yesterday I could. It's foggy but I don't see any haze.
posted by peep at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2015

I can't answer your question directly but wanted to make a suggestion. I'm in the thick of the worst eastern WA/north Idaho fires. I have two Honeywell air purifiers going on the max setting in my home and it's perfectly fine in here. They're wonderfully effective. You can have them overnighted from Amazon. This crazy wildfire situation is likely going to be an ongoing feature of our summers now, so they are a good investment.
posted by HotToddy at 2:23 PM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

The Olympic Peninsula is where I'm thinking. Everything's green! Memail me if you'd like.
posted by sweltering at 2:42 PM on August 23, 2015

Seattle Now (Sunday 8/23, 3:30pm).
Seattle has been smokey all day. Smells of woodsmoke. We do have plenty of sight distance -- it's like a slightly misty day, only dry and smokey. Not pleasant. My throat is a little irritated.

Of course, the people on the east side of the Cascades have it much much worse.
posted by valannc at 3:24 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

yes, Seattle is also completely unaffected. You could take a ferry to Bainbridge or Vaschon island and get really pristine air.

What? looking down any significant view, like capitol hill towards the space needle everything is hazy. It's like a moderately to heavily foggy day. You can smell it everywhere, and it's just generally misty/hazy. You can barely see the mountains.
posted by emptythought at 6:11 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Seattle area haze started clearing out this evening after the wind shifted but I still wouldn't come up here because we're closer to more fires than Portland is and who knows WTF will happen tomorrow.

I'm just hunkering down indoors with all the windows shut and popping benadryls.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:39 PM on August 23, 2015

If it helps at all, Seattle is completely cleared out of the smoke and haze. At least for now.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:34 PM on August 24, 2015

The Cascades are a block against the worst of the smoke (though as you and other Portland and Seattle folk are discovering, it's not a perfect one), so while going south into Utah/Nevada/Colorado isn't a solution, going into Southern Oregon or even California might be.
posted by kagredon at 12:45 PM on August 26, 2015

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