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A look at Washington's wildfires from space

A look at Washington's wildfires from space

Earlier this week, a lightning storm passing through central Washington sparked dozens of wildfires. Some of the smoke from that region traveled all the way to the metro Spokane area where it caused the worse air conditions in the past two years. 

That smoke is visible from NASA's Aqua satellite which captured this image of our state earlier this week on September 10. 

The Apache Pass fire about 17 miles southwest of Creston is visible on the right side of the photograph. It has reportedly burned about 20,000 acres of land and is only 30 percent contained.

NASA officials say more than 8.2 million acres of land have burned throughout the United States so far this year making it one of the most severe wildfire seasons in the last decade. The only year in the last decade when more acres had burned by September 11 was 2006; at that point in the season that year, nearly 8.7 million acres had burned.

The air quality in the Spokane area is starting to clear up despite the continuing wildfires. The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency currently lists the air quality index at 33 - which means "good". 

Hazy weather en route to Spokane area

Hazy weather en route to Spokane area

Residents of the Inland Northwest might have noticed the hazy skies lingering over the Spokane area. Dust whipped up from moderate winds is on its way to the Spokane - bringing more haze and a more pronounced smokey smell. 

Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency has tracked the current air quality index to 108 - deeming it unhealthy for sensitive groups. Older adults, children and those afflicted with heart and lung disease are advised to reduce exertion in today's weather condition.  

Some fires out of central and northeast Washington are to blame for the haze en route to the metro area of Spokane. Winds from the west are blowing in at about 20 to 30 mph with some expected gusts up to 45 mph.

Highway travel may be affected as well due to a blow dust advisory issued by the National Weather Service on Monday afternoon. Drivers can expect low visibility - limiting sight one to three miles in some direction.

NWS advises the biggest impacts will be in agriculture regions of the state along Interstate 90 from Vantage to Cheney and Highway 2 from east Waterville to Davenport.

Expect dry and windy weekend weather conditions

A fire weather watch has been issued for the region due to expected dry conditions over the weekend.

Moderate winds from 15-25 mph are expected to pick up following a cold front expected to approach the Inland Northwest on Sunday afternoon.

The mix of dry weather and wind in the area could unleash dust storms especially in the Columbia Basin.

According to the National Weather Service, humidity is expected to be below 20 percent - causing extreme fire behavior. If a brush fire develops in the area, it could spread quickly.

Meteorologists also expect the wind to increase on Monday reaching 25-30 mph. Isolated dry lightning is also a possibility for the area.

High winds recorded throughout Inland Northwest

High winds were recorded in parts of the Inland Northwest on Wednesday evening due to a northern cold front. There was a high impact to regions with south oriented ridges and valleys according to the National Weather Service.

NWS meteorologist Paul Bos says last night’s weather was a classic pattern of winds.

“The real kicker it looks like - we had quite a bit of terrain channeling,” Bos said. “We we cool off at night, we set up inversions - all those winds go through narrow areas. There’s not a lot of room through there and they’re going to accelerate.”

A wind advisory was issued just after 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday saying winds were expected around Bonners Ferry Sandpoint, advising drivers of gusty winds. 

High impact areas included Bonners Ferry who recorded the highest gusts of 51 mph and Coeur d’Alene Airport at 44 mph. Winds at Spokane International Airport were recorded at 38 mph. 

Power outages were also reported throughout the region, knocking out the power for over a 1,000 homes in Chewelah, Wash. and more than 600 homes in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Avista restored power for the majority of those residents overnight.

"Blue moon" scheduled for Friday evening

"Blue moon" scheduled for Friday evening

Strange things always seem to happen on full moons, but what about an additional full moon on the same month? That's called a blue moon. Sorry to disappoint you, but technically - it's not blue.

Because lunar events are not aligned with our calendar months, sometimes the 29.5 cycle resets. We already had a pre-funk earlier this month, a full moon on August 1. History is now is repeating itself this Friday, August 31.

It will be awhile the next time you see two full moons in the same month. You'll have to wait until July 2015. The skies are expected to be clear, so don't stand alone this Friday. Grab a love of your own and check out the night sky.

Spokane Fire confirms last week's fire near convent as human caused

Spokane Fire confirms last week's fire near convent as human caused

Last week’s fire near the Convent of the Holy Names has been confirmed as human caused by Spokane Fire Department. Fire officials say they’re not sure if the fire was intentional or accidental, but they’re now crowd sourcing tips from the public to piece together the August 13 scenario.

The fire damaged about five acres of land consisting of grass, trees and nature trails with benches. As the 3rd alarm fire progressed, occupants at the nearby convent and Tamarack Center were evacuated.

Assistant fire chief Brian Schaeffer says crews wrapped up their area patrols over the weekend checking for further hot spots.

“We were up there until yesterday - had a company on patrol status watching for smokes and making sure everything in the perimeter is mopping up and doesn’t cause any concern for folks in that area,” Schaeffer said.

With the recent climate of hot and dry, fire crews wanted to make sure everything was out. 

“We need to dig it all out and make sure it’s cold otherwise like today - when this front is supposed to come in - wind comes in and kindles a fire and we’re in the same situation as we were in the other day,” Schaeffer added.

Where to watch this year's Perseids meteor shower

Where to watch this year's Perseids meteor shower

Clear skies are expected for the upcoming Perseids meteor showers. The night sky show is expected to peak on Saturday night through early Sunday morning. You could see as many as 100 meteors per hour.

If you’re looking for somewhere to view the action, the Spokane Astronomical Society recommends their Fish Trap viewing party on August 11. The location is 33 miles southwest of Spokane and is far enough away to eliminate light pollution.

Society member Jerry Eber recommends visitors show up before dark so any developed night vision is not ruined by vehicle headlights. 

If you go, bring something warm to wear because temperatures will be in the low 60s. You should also bring a nice lawn chair to stay comfortable. The society will have telescopes on site for viewing.

If you can’t make it to their Fish Trap location, Eber also recommends the middle of Franklin Park and Cannon Park for viewing, but your backyard should suffice as long as you find the darkest spot possible.