Portlanders Can Finally Go Outside Again—Air Quality Has Gotten Much Better and Will Continue to Improve

As long as you’re not in a sensitive group, it’s safe to open your windows again and go outside without a respirator.

Judah, evacuated from his Clackamas County home, points at the sun and calls it a "red moon" on Sept. 9. IMAGE: Alex Wittwer.

Portland has made it through the worst of the smoke.

Thanks to a combination of rain and wind, much of the city has been downgraded from "very unhealthy" on the Air Quality Index to "unhealthy for sensitive groups"—the best air quality Portland has seen since last week, when a rare windstorm sparked wildfires and blew smoke across the state.

Related: A Rare Wind Event Has Northwest Oregon Under a Critical Fire Warning.

As long as you're not in a sensitive group—which the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality defines as children, seniors, pregnant people and those with heart disease or respiratory conditions—it's safe to open your windows again and go outside without a respirator.

If you are in a sensitive group, a reprieve is on the way. Conditions will continue to improve for at least the next 72 hours. Precipitation is predicted through Saturday, as well as winds from the southwest that will prevent fine particulate matter from lingering in the air.

"The major issue is that there hasn't been mixing in the atmosphere," says David Bishop, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. But wind and rain are creating a much needed atmospheric disturbance, "and that will continue."

This morning, when the air quality was still "unhealthy," the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality extended its health advisory through Saturday. While that advisory remains in effect for sensitive groups, DEQ spokesperson Harry Esteve tells WW that for everyone else, it's OK to open windows and create some air flow.

Portland's AQI number will continue to drop, "unless there's more wind or another fire breaks out," says Esteve.

Multnomah County, however, recommends that most people wait until Portland's AQI rating has fallen below 100 before airing out your home:

And as satisfying as it is to finally fling your windows open or step outside without suiting up for an apocalyptic hellscape, the National Weather Service says you shouldn't completely let your guard down.

"People still need to remain vigilant," says Bishop. "Weather conditions are changing, and they will continue to change."

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