Treasure Valley thunderstorms leave cleaner air in their wake

September 6, 2013 

Boiseans can take a deep breath again after recent stormy weather pushed out most of the smoke that hung over the Treasure Valley all summer.

Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Regional Air Shed Coordinator Mike Toole said that winds and rain sucked much of the lingering haze away, leaving Boise clearer than it’s been in some time.

“Overall, those storms have been very helpful to the air quality, especially here in the Treasure Valley,” he said.

Fire managers are often leery of thunderstorms: high winds often spread the flames and lightning can spark new fires when it strikes. But storms can also be a boon when storm clouds dump precipitation onto wildfires and wet the surrounding area.

“With the high humidity in the air, and what precipitation they did get with the cooler temperatures, it helps reduce the fire activity,” he said. “When that happens it also can reduce the amount of smoke coming out of those fires.”

The forecast calls for sunny skies over the weekend and stretching into next week. But Toole said a lack of rain does not mean clouds of smoke will come rolling back.

Most of the Idaho wildfires are on their way to containment, he said. Fires in Oregon and California could affect the air quality, but Toole said things were looking up.

“We’re not anticipating any significant smoke impacts,” he said. “We could have a little bit of haze, but nothing like we experienced here a month ago.”

Air quality levels for the area are currently green, and the DEQ expects that to hold throughout the weekend. Highs are slated to remain in the 80s throughout the weekend, with light winds.

“It’s one of the clearest days we’ve had in quite a while,” Toole said Friday. “It’s beautiful out there.”

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