Slog PM: Updates on Seattle’s “Hazardous” Air, Inslee Rebrands “Wildfires” as “Climate Fires”

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Just one shot of the widespread wildfire destruction in Phoenix, Oregon.

Just one shot of the widespread wildfire destruction in Phoenix, Oregon. DAVID RYDER / GETTY NEWS

It’s the end of the week, Sloggers, we still can’t breathe, and it’s time to roundup this afternoon’s local and national headlines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci believes America will return to normal: It’ll happen, he says! It’ll just happen… “well into 2021. Maybe even towards the end of 2021.” I’m just betting on 2022 to be safe. To all my pre-March-2020 friends: Let’s break up. My primary relationship from now on is with my Nintendo Switch.


An Oregon official said the state is preparing for a “mass fatality incident“: More than 12% of Oregon’s population have fled from their homes. Portland is under a state of emergency as fires creep closer to the city.

In Seattle, the air quality reached “very unhealthy” levels by around 11 am today: By around 4 pm, we reached “hazardous,” the highest rating given by the Air Quality Index. A rating of 301 to 500 is considered hazardous—but some places are ranking “Beyond the AQI.” Air quality in Western Oregon has passed the 500 threshold often since Labor Day.

Something to avoid right now: Outdoor activities! Even if you’re super-duper healthy! Paige Cornwell notes that “a ‘hazardous’ rating means people with heart and lung disease should consider leaving the area” for the Seattle Timeslive blog on Washington’s wildfires.

Here’s what the Washington State Department of Ecology is forecasting for tomorrow:

You see that yellow? That yellow is better than todays orange!

I’m hoping that yellow—which would mean moderate smoke—actually happens. Today was predicted to be unhealthy (red), and it turned out to be hazardous (maroon). WA Department of Ecology

Welp, nevermind: “Moderate” might be too optimistic. The TL;DR of all these graphs is that the air fucking sucks.

You can see an interactive map with more updates here. As of posting, the Seattle area’s air quality is 302.

At a presser today, Gov. Inslee said 626,982 acres have burned in Washington as of this morning: That’s counting “just the active fires,” Inslee said, “not the ones that have already been contained and where recovery continues.” The fires destroyed an estimated 181 homes across Washington. KOMO has a livestream of Inslee’s presser here:

Inslee also rebranded wildfires today: In a shift that’s sure to raise conservatives’ eyebrows, Inslee deemed the fires “climate fires.” The flashy move caught the eyes of the Guardian:

Governor Jay Inslee, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination on a ticket that put the climate crisis as the No 1 issue facing America and the world, said the abnormally dry conditions and high temperatures fueled by climate change were making fires “so explosive”.

At a news conference Friday, he argued the fires in the northwest shouldn’t be called wildfires, but “climate fires”.

“This is not an act of God,” Inslee said. “This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways.”

Many restaurants are closing early today because of the smoke: We’ve built a running list of those restaurants here. Many locations are still offering takeout, but others are closed altogether.

Seattle will close all of its beaches and parks through Sunday: Because it looks like this outside. There’s a new “healthy air center” in SoDo for people who need it. It’s estimated to hold between 80 and 300 people.

In case the view out your window isn’t dramatic enough: KUOW has excellent photos of this “super-massive” plume of smoke visiting our fair city.

Good luck this weekend: While going on a trip seems out of the question right now, I’m sure you’ll be taking many trips to the Washington Smoke blog over the next few days, just like the rest of us.

Nebraska will end almost all of its social distancing restrictions on Monday: That’s a little curious because the number of new COVID-19 cases in that state is trending upward. Among states, Nebraska ranked 15th highest in its rate of positive cases as of this week.

Meanwhile, in King County, our COVID-19 protections keep other viruses at bay: Our flu season could be pretty mild if we keep this up, writes Sandi Doughton for the Seattle Times.

What does PayPal have against tardigrades? GeekWire has a fun story about a confounding problem local weirdo retailer Archie McPhee is running into: PayPal won’t process any of their tardigrade-themed products. What? A possible explanation: “A PayPal representative put the blame on the US government’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions, which contain an entry for an industrial supply company called ‘Tardigrade Limited’ located in the country of Cyprus.”

Trump and Biden attended 9/11 memorials today: Joe and Jill Biden attended the 9/11 service in NYC with Gov. Cuomo. Donald and Melania Trump attended a ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Trump and Biden planned on visiting the same memorials but at different times, in an attempt to avoid each other. Still, they “struck a temporary ceasefire.” Biden did tap Pence’s shoulder.

Something to note, via the Guardian: “This year the rituals of remembrance were different and the tragedy was marked as another continues to unfold: the coronavirus pandemic has cost 191,000 American lives—the equivalent of a 9/11 for 64 consecutive days.”

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There’s also this 9/11:

Something to look forward to: Luca Guadagnino, the director of Call Me By Your Name, has a new buzzy teen series coming to HBO on Monday, titled We Are Who We Are. Vulture calls it “gorgeously photographed and obsessive in its attention to detail.” The New York Times says it’s “a loving tribute to people’s infinite potential to change.” It features Chloë Sevigny and Kid Cudi acting together in an army base, plus scoring from Dev Hynes. That’s enough to get me to watch! A trailer:
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