Wildfire Smoke Chokes Oregon Coast; Possible Aurora Borealis for Portland

Published 08/233/2015 at 6:04 PM PDT - Updated 08/243/2015 at 4:04 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Oregon Coast) – All that wildfire smoke that had smothered Portland, Salem and the Gorge so badly this weekend even made it to the Oregon coast. It is still only slowly dissipating there as well. (Photo above of Garibaldi, courtesy ‏@the63jojo),

Meanwhile, if the hazy skies become a bit more forgiving, places like Portland, the valley towns and even the Oregon coast may get a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.

Most of the smoke that hit the Oregon coast on Saturday was from the same sources as those that choked the Portland metro area: wildfires from Washington, Oregon and even Idaho. However, some of the smokey haze for the coast came from the south.

After 26 mph winds from the east kicked in, they brought with them the wildfire smoke in a thick, hazy curtain to western Oregon. Oregon's DEQ issued numerously unhealthy air alerts, urging most to stay in doors.

In Portland, visibility down its straighter boulevards was less than a mile. On the north coast, Tillamook County officials said visibility was down to four miles in some places. Some parts of the central coast – but not all – reported heavy smoke. Emergency dispatchers in the Newport and Toledo areas sent out numerous alerts to stop calling 911 about the haze.

Conditions are expected to improve over the evening, but they won't completely clear until Monday.

Winds shifted direction late Saturday, but not with enough strength to move much of the haze out, thus making recovery much slower. The National Weather Service and other weather pundits had earlier predicted Portland and the coast would be clear by Sunday morning, but plenty of smoky haze remains.

Many of the DEQ air sampling stations in the Portland area have shown a decrease in pollution severity, showing two categories: 24 hour averages and averages from the last hour. The 24-hour indicators show levels at about 150 with the red color of an alert for unhealthy air quality. As of 6 p.m., the one hour indicators often show about 85 and a yellow alert, a sign of a significant drop.

On the Oregon coast, the difference is a bit more noticeable. Brian Hines, owner of San Dune Inn in Manzanita, noted how even this morning the top of Neahkahnie Mountain was difficult to see with all the haze. By early evening, it had mostly cleared, he said.

Given the hazy skies in both areas, and the increasingly small chances of the solar winds hitting this far south, it is starting to look less and less likely that Oregon will get see the Aurora Borealis.

Jim Todd, astronomy expert with Portland's OMSI, said early Sunday there is a chance to see an aurora display on the middle latitudes.

“his does not mean that you will see the aurora but does mean that you should be alert for a possible aurora display,” Todd said.

Early Saturday NASA officials reported a strong M3.53 solar flare from sunspot region 12403. Currently, SpaceWeatherLive.com is showing some chance for higher latitudes to see it and almost none for this area, but this could change over the next 24 hours.

See more Oregon coast weather here.




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