Portland has never been so excited to see such a small amount of rain—except, of course, last year, when Oregon was also besieged by megafires.
But the sprinkling of rain has brought even more good news.
The wildfire haze that’s hung over the city for the past few days has finally lifted. The weather system that broke Portland’s 51-day streak without measurable rain also pushed smoke east of the Cascades.
Earlier this week, after enjoying clear skies for the better part of the summer, Portland saw smoke blow in from the Middle Fork Complex near Eugene and the megafires in Southern Oregon and Northern California.
“Some of that was able to drift over our area,” says Chris Burling, a meteorologist for the Portland branch of the National Weather Service, “But it was mostly remaining aloft.”
Though the smoke was too high in the atmosphere to really affect Portland’s air quality, it was plenty visible. It blurred the city’s horizon, blocked views of Mount Hood and produced deep orange sunsets.
The smoke may have cleared, but it’s unlikely we’ll have much time to enjoy pristine blue skies. There’s a chance for more light rain tomorrow, and cloudy weather is expected through Monday. After that, it’s possible the smoke could return. It’s unclear if it will be low enough in the atmosphere to affect air quality.
“Confidence is not particularly high on that,” says Burling. But starting Tuesday, “it seems a pretty good bet that we’re going to see more smoke aloft.”
Fire season crept north up the Willamette Valley this week. Lightning sparked several fires on the western slopes of the Cascades, including the Middle Fork Complex, which is currently causing hazardous air quality just outside of Springfield, and the Bull Complex just south of the Clackamas County border.
The cooler weather we’re now experiencing is expected to give way next week too. After a weekend of highs in the 70s and 80s, Portland will likely see temperatures in the 90s and low 100s.
“Be ready for another round of hot temperatures next week,” says Burling.