As hazardous smoke lingers in much of the state, some Oregonians travel for a breath of fresh air, many stay put

As heavy smoke from wildfires continued to cover much of Oregon Tuesday, some people were opting to leave the area, but many people seemed to be staying home, waiting for the air to clear.

The air quality in the Portland area and through the Willamette Valley remained in the unhealthy to hazardous range Tuesday, but on some parts of the Oregon Coast, air quality was beginning to improve.

“The air quality and smoke has actually improved a lot along the coast this morning,” Tyler Kranz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland said Tuesday.

And some people were definitely heading that way.

“Drove to the North Coast on Sunday for a day trip. It was wonderful,” tweeted Paul Hoffman in response to a question from The Oregonian/OregonLive. “Air quality much better at the coast.”

“Judging by the traffic that was heading back to Portland, I’d say a lot of people went to the coast on Saturday,” he said. “Reader board near Cannon Beach warned about heavy traffic. There was not heavy traffic on Sunday but must have been earlier in the week.”

But others said they opted to stay.

“We stayed here in Eugene, but I can understand fleeing,” tweeted Bettina Cornwell.

“Most other places in Oregon are also suffering from air quality issues,” Cornwell said, adding she “would not want to put any more pressure on temporary accommodations” for people who have been forced to evacuate.

And while there were places farther afield where the air quality was substantially better, a Kama Simonds, a spokesperson for the Portland International Airport said while people might be dreaming of escaping the smoke by air, “We’re not seeing an uptick in travel numbers beyond the slow, gradual return to travel during the pandemic.”

Alaska Air canceled flights on Monday and Tuesday morning due to smoke, Simonds noted, but flights were scheduled to resume Tuesday afternoon and there had been no other changes to operations at the airport.

The Portland area isn’t done with smoky skies. The National Weather services predicted smoke would begin to clear Thursday night.

— Lizzy Acker

503-221-8052, lacker@oregonian.com, @lizzzyacker

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