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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Sunday's smoke was just a whiff of what's ahead in Seattle area

The smoke-shrouded Seattle skyline on Tuesday.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
The smoke-shrouded Seattle skyline last week.

Stay inside if you can.

With wildfire smoke billowing into the Seattle area from a number of fronts, that’s the advice of the Puget Sound Clean Agency.

The agency said pollution levels hit unhealthy levels in some parts of the region Sunday, and a hazardous air warning is in effect until Wednesday.

Monitoring stations showed the worst spots Monday morning were in the Kent, Auburn and Tacoma areas.

Conditions in Seattle itself improved overnight after a smoky Sunday. The smoke was so bad Sunday evening that flights were delayed at Sea-Tac Airport because of visibility issues.

And conditions could be worse Tuesday, according to weather service modeling.

What’s causing this? National Weather Service meteorologist Dustin Guy said Monday that there are a couple of factors.

“We’ve got a ridge of high pressure building into the area so that’s going to continue to bring in smoke from fires up to our north in BC, as well as fires in the Cascades and into eastern Washington,” he told KUOW.

That’s the upper-level story. Closer to the ground, northerly winds were also bringing in smoke from the north, he said.

But Jay Albrecht at the weather service says there could be a welcome change ahead.

If those distant fires aren’t enough to worry about, there’s a red-flag warning for dangerous wildfire conditions in western Washington on Monday, too.

The National Weather Service said a combination of rising winds and low humidity had raised the fire danger in the northern Olympic Peninsula, San Juan Islands and Bellingham area.

The warning was in effect until 6 p.m. Monday.

On Sunday, smoke from a brush fire shut down westbound Highway 18 just west of Tiger Mountain, the state Department of Transportation.

How to make a DIY air filter for your home:

Year started with KUOW: 2015
Angela King is an Emmy-award winning journalist who’s been a part of the northwest news scene since the early 1990s. A proud University of Washington alumna, with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and American Ethnic Studies, she started her career as a news writer in Seattle, before becoming a reporter and anchor in Seattle, Portland and Albuquerque.