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Air Quality expected to be impacted by windblown dust

Peak afternoon winds have the potential to transport blowing dust into Spokane from the Columbia Basin. Air quality may reach into the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups/Orange range on the Air Quality Index (AQI) briefly this afternoon. Good air quality is expected for tomorrow.

Air quality can be affected by dust from windy conditions. When it’s dusty, it’s important to take precautions to protect your health.

Dust is made up of tiny particles. When inhaled, these particles can settle deeply into lungs and can irritate or damage sensitive tissues in the respiratory system. People with respiratory illnesses, the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and anyone engaged in strenuous physical activity outdoors are most at risk.

Here’s how you can protect yourself and your family when it’s dusty:

  • Check current air quality.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible if air quality becomes unhealthy.
  • Watch for sudden changes in visibility while driving.
  • Avoid driving during windy conditions when windblown dust is likely.
  • Turn on headlights as a safety precaution.

Wind gust conditions today are very similar to those we experienced last year on March 28, 2021. Here is chart that illustrates the rapid change in particulate matter (PM10) during that event. The one-hour maximum PM10 measurement (in micrograms per cubic meter of air) was over 500. While there isn’t a one-hour exposure health standard, there is a 24-hour average (midnight to midnight) standard of 150 micrograms. Typically, dust storms result in very high readings for short period, so once the 24-hour average is calculated, it rarely eclipses the 24-hour health based standard.

Pictured: View of Spokane looking toward the arena during a previous dust storm.