Hello Rain Goodbye Smoke

It’s raining! Yes, we miss it. Well, many of us miss it. The rains go away near the end of July and return sometime around Labor Day. They don’t always receive a dancing in the rain welcome, but this year, smoke took the place of sunshine. Credit should be given where it is due, however. It is really the wind that will clear the air, but the rain feels like it is cleansing, too.

Smoke season is becoming more common on the West Coast. Whidbey Island doesn’t tend to get big fires (we could, but so far we haven’t), but in the last few years we’ve pulled in smoke from California and Oregon (oddly coming up the coast off the shore then swinging back into the area.), Eastern Washington (which is tough considering the wind usually blows the other way), British Columbia (more understandable), and Siberia. Siberia! August’s blue skies can readily be replaced with a sepia tone filter that makes old, classic homes look like scenes for flashbacks.

Burn bans are common enough that the fire department has roadside signs ready to deploy. Seeing them show up this year brought a larger than normal disappointment because some families were coping with #StayHome orders by gathering around the campfire afternoons and evenings. Fortunately, most folks followed the rules and pulled back on open flames.

Whidbey Island was lucky. Check the air quality maps. For a while, the island was sitting at about 200 parts per million, the borderline between unhealthy for sensitive groups and unhealthy for everyone. It was that way for about a week. That’s far better than the sites of the fires where the air quality was three times worse; otherwise known as off the chart.

Then, the forecast showed rain, only a chance, but hope can live on such hints. Some got it. Some didn’t. The air didn’t improve a lot, but we’re comfortable with clouds of rain. They didn’t look much different than clouds of smoke (well maybe a little), but comfort zones are valuable in trying times.

Now, as autumn approaches, so do its storms. As this is being typed, the north end of the island is being cleared by ocean breezes. The south end, fifty miles south, is closer to the relatively still air in and around Seattle. A bit of patience.

Also a bit of caution. Roads left to dry for months tend to be wet during the first rain. Oils build up, mix with water, and make the surface slick. This year, add more ash than normal and add more caution than normal.

As one poster described it, instead of smelling like a phenomenal campfire whose smoke can’t be avoided, now it smells like a campfire that’s just been doused with water. Of course, this rain and next week’s forecast storms are likely to erase the local evidence of the smoke season. As for those directly affected by the fires, you have our sympathies.

Oh, as for rain; sympathies also go out to those getting drenched with feet of rain under hurricanes. Thankfully, the Salish Sea’s climate is much more moderate, possibly persistently misty, but moderate.

…and back to normal. Ah.

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