The National Weather Service office in Spokane issued an air stagnation advisory Thursday across the Idaho Panhandle, closing the lid on wood stoves and warning vulnerable residents of potentially dangerous health risks.
“People with respiratory illness should follow their physician’s advice for dealing with high levels of air pollution during periods of stagnant air,” the urgent bulletin read.
The advisory — stretching from central Washington across the Palouse and into Spokane before swallowing all of North Idaho — is predicted to run at least until noon today, possibly extending into the weekend.
“State air quality agencies highly recommend that no outdoor burning occur,” the National Weather Service bulletin declared, “and that residential wood burning devices be limited as much as possible.”
The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality concurred, agreeing that ceasing outdoor burning for the time being and limiting residential wood burning as much as possible will help today’s air quality, as prolonged periods of stagnant air can hold pollutants close to the ground, where people live and breathe.
Today’s air stagnation is a result of low wind speeds and cold temperatures failing to break morning inversions of pollutants, which in this case include smoke from wood-burning stoves. This air becomes trapped beneath layers of warmer air above, holding in the smoke. The inability of wind to carry pollution can result in poor driving conditions and poorer-still air quality.