SEATTLE - A very warm summer day in the Seattle area this weekend is coinciding with another round of encroaching wildfire smoke, leaving some residents with a difficult choice: Avoid the smoke? Or avoid the heat?
The National Weather Service is hoping to answer the question with an unusual Heat Advisory for the region: Choose cooling over avoiding the smoke.
Luckily neither the heat nor the smoke is reaching extreme levels, but they will combine to make unpleasant conditions. High temperatures around the Puget Sound region are expected to reach the mid 80s to mid 90s Saturday and Sunday – about 10-15 degrees above average. In the meantime, another plume of smoke from wildfires burning in Canada's British Columbia will drift south into the region over the weekend, forecast to knock air quality down to unhealthy for vulnerable groups levels.
With a large portion of the usually-temperate region with homes without air conditioning, many usually use open windows as their natural air conditioning overnight – but may be reluctant to open windows with smoky conditions outside.
"With smoke and haze in the air, there is concern that our most vulnerable populations without A/C (specifically those with underlying health conditions) may be reluctant to open windows during the overnight hours," NWS Seattle's Reid Wolcott said. "After consultation with multiple (emergency managers) and Public Health experts, the decision was made to issue the Heat Advisory and language was included stating that in instances where heat and smoke are concurrent hazards - cooling should be prioritized."
Temperatures cool, but lightning remains a threat for wildfire starts
The Heat Advisory will remain in effect all weekend, then much cooler weather returns for Monday into early next week.
But wildfires and their smoke remain a concern even as summer begins its final weeks - not just in Canada but in the Pacific Northwest. Rounds of thunderstorms brought over 1,500 lightning strike across northern California, Oregon, and southern Washington Thursday and Friday, according to the Oregon state fire marshal.
Officials have noted at least 50 new wildfire starts just in western Oregon.
"Your awareness is critical to staying safe with so many new fires on the landscape and east winds anticipated (Friday into Saturday)," the marshal wrote on Facebook.