Wind, Fire, and Smoke in Portland

You’ve probably seen on the news that we are having terrible fires in Oregon. Some of them very near Portland. I’ve had several friends who have had to evacuate their homes and some had to leave livestock behind because the evacuation orders came up so quickly. Luckily, they have since been able to get back in to get their animals to safe locations and have been able to check on their homes.

Entire towns have been burned and they’re just starting to be able to put numbers together on dead and missing people.

So far, the fires have avoided my friends’ homes and properties. They’re very fortunate, but they’re not out of danger yet.

I have a lot of people asking if I’m safe. Here’s a map of the evacuation orders in the Portland area. I’ve marked my house with the blue X.

There’s a lot more distance between me and the evacuation zones than this map would lead you to believe. I’m safe now, but am watching the situation closely and am making preparations to evacuate in case it comes to that.

On this map, the green area is evacuation level 1: make preparations to leave. Yellow is level 2: be ready to leave at any time. Red is level 3, which means get out now. I’m not even at level 1 yet. I think it’s unlikely that I’ll have to evacuate, but I want to be ready in case it becomes necessary. There is a lot of city between me and the red zone.

I can’t tell you how frightening and stressful this is. It all started earlier this week with terrible dry wind storms that came in from the east. There were predictions that these winds had the potential to cause serious fire situations, and they didn’t disappoint. The wind started early this week and continued for two days. I’ve never been so glad to see wind die down as I was with this storm. The storm brought down branches and full trees and a lot of people have had power outages to deal with. I didn’t lose power, and only had some branches come down. There were were trees down in my neighborhood.

And now, several days later, the winds have shifted to coming out of the west, which means they’re coming off the Pacific Ocean… which means cooler and moister air. They are also very light winds. This is all very good news for fire fighting. We’re even expecting some rain next week. It won’t be enough to put out the fires, but will be a positive for fighting the fires. It’s likely these fires will burn for months, but some favorable weather will help them get them contained and under control. Our rainy season should start in about a month and typically continues into May or June.

Right now, the thing affecting most of the area is choking smoke. Initially, the winds took all the smoke across the Portland metro area and out over the Pacific Ocean. Now that the winds are coming from the west, all that smoke is coming right back over us… and is spreading out across the western US. Our air quality is the worst on the planet right now. My eyes and lungs are burning, and my head hurts. There’s just no way to get away from it.

Here’s a link to an interactive satellite map that shows you the fires and the smoke movement. You can change the time of the photo in the upper left. It’s interesting to see how the winds and smoke have changed over the days. The smoke stretched out 1,000 miles out into the Pacific!

I was walking the dogs in the afternoon several days ago when I noticed the first smoke from the fires coming into view to the south.

This is the view from our evening walk that same day.

Even with all that smoke it was a couple days before I could really smell much smoke. But the smell came in yesterday morning with a really acrid smell. In late morning, more smoke rolled in and the strong smell of wood smoke was everywhere.

That evening it was almost pitch dark by 6 pm. Here’s a picture looking across the street to my neighbor’s house. Her automatic lights came on two hours before sunset, and the street lights all came on too.

Here’s a view from my back yard, looking west at around the same time the previous night. We didn’t see the sun today.

I was hoping to be able to take a short drive this weekend to find some clean air and get out for a nice walk, but it looks like I’d have to drive for five hours to get to clean air. So we’ll have to find other ways to get some exercise in the house. They were saying on the news just now that all this stress makes your body produce stress hormones, and the best way to get them out of your system is exercise. We all need some exercise. Today was the first time since February that we haven’t taken a walk. But it’s just too unsafe to breathe that horrible smoke.

That picture is looking north from my house yesterday. And the smoke was worse today. The neighborhood is deserted. No one is walking. Very few cars go by. It’s very eerie. There is usually a constant stream of walkers and dogs going by.

These poor kids need some activity. Please keep us all in your thoughts for safety from the fires and relief from the smoke.

29 Replies to “Wind, Fire, and Smoke in Portland”

  1. Thinking of you. We had friends and family in the red/yellow zone equivalents last year here in Australia, and the fires burned for months, taking millions of hectares of pristine rainforest and bush, and endangering entire species of native animals. Stay safe, all of you. If you have it, running air conditioning does help reduce the particulate burden in the air.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Forest fires are not uncommon in Oregon, but we don’t typically see them this big on the west side because it’s so wet hereI fear this is a sign of what we’ll see more of in the future. There is a terrible amount of fuel in this area if the conditions are right. It’s such beautiful country here. It’s so sad to see this happening… in so many ways. Thanks for your kind words. I hope we all wake up about our poor planet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for letting us know. I was worried about you. I’m still worried with how terrible these fires are and I think we will learn that more people have died. Do everything you can to stay safe

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    1. Yes. We’re just starting to get more info from the areas that have been devastated by fire. Death reports are starting to come in, and still a good number of people missing. I’m hoping things have stabilized now as they can work more on containing the fires.

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  3. We had to evacuate three times when we lived in California so I understand how you feel. We learned a lot that first time, we weren’t able to take anything but our dogs and what we were wearing. After that we had a plan and everything of importance was in a specific location, ready to put it in the car at the first hint of evacuating. I hope they get these fires out soon. It looks like the whole west coast is on fire.

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    1. I have some things packed in the car. Other things are bagged up and in the car ready to grab if I have to go. I think it’s unlikely that it will come to that, but it’s better to be prepared.

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  4. So glad to see your blog today! I watch the news several times a day, and the pictures of the wildfires made me worry about your safety. I kept thinking about what I’d do if I had to evacuate. I don’t drive anymore so I couldn’t even load up a car to get away, but the first thing I’d take is my Bernina! It’s been with me for over 25 yrs and is a workhorse. Make a plan with a destination in mind for evacuation. It scares me to think of the situation you’re in. Be safe! Try to keep us all informed of you can.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, how stressful and terrible. I’m glad you and the doggies are safe! I hope you stay that way and things get better. I lived in Seattle for a while and love it best, so I’m especially sad my beloved Pacific Northwest is going through this–*and* I know the stress all too well, too. I mentioned being evacuated in my last comment; that was because a tornado hit my house earlier this year. But we’ll all make it, and 2021 has got to be better!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my. A tornado must be horrifying! I’m so glad you came through it ok, even though your house was damaged. You were lucky. I’ve lived in Portland for 10 years now… moved here from Salt Lake. I love the northwest. The rainy winters can be a little much, but the summers are pretty glorious. Here’s hoping 2021 is less apocalyptic than 2020!

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  6. My daughter lives in Portland on NE 9th Ave. They live in a house built in 1907 with no AC. Yesterday, she and her husband took their 7 week old baby and the dog to go to an area with better air. They chose Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. After 6 something hours ride, the air was clear and they were happy. This morning they awoke to hazardous air and very little visibility They have now gone to Missoula, Montana where things are better…just for today. He is lucky that he can work remotely from anywhere…It is very very frightening. Thinking of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. All of this smoke we have is now blowing East across the US. Hoping that we’ll see some clearing in the next few days… or at least a lessening of this horrible smoke. It’s really terrible. But at least we don’t have fire bearing down on us!

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  7. I pray you continue to be safe and out of harm’s way. It must be so scary even sleeping at night wondering how quickly this will erupt even more and get closer to your home So glad you have a safe place to go. Be sure to pack your sewing machine and Kaffe Fabric. That would be even worse. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Jean. My evacuation site is at the home of a friend who is also a quilter, though not the Kaffe fan that I am. I’m thinking it is unlikely that I’ll have to evacuate, judging from what’s happened with the weather and the lack of movement in the evacuation zones. But I’m getting ready just the same.

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    1. I actually did a lot of house keeping stuff on Saturday. Washed bedding, changed sheets, folded a lot of clean laundry. Cleaned out closets and drawers and filled several boxes for Good Will. I was thinking of doing a little sewing, but I’m really tired. Good time for a movie!

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      1. Hmmm. I’ve looked everywhere on this blog and can’t find where to change my time zone. I’ve submitted a support request. I usually do my blog posts late in the evenings and just wake up to comments in my email box! If i hear back from them with something helpful, I’ll fix it. Thanks for the heads up on this.

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    1. The air quality is actually so bad it’s hazardous. They are recommending that we stay inside with little activity. I am hopeful that it will get a little better in the next few days. With the shift in the winds, we should see some relief.

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    1. thanks! Things are looking better today. Some of the people who had evacuated are allowed to go home. the smoke is clearing some so that’s really nice. The weather has turned cooler and the breeze is coming from the coast now so it’s cool and moist. And we’re still hoping for some rain this week. So things are looking better!

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