Big New Fire on Stevens Pass Send Smoke to the Northern Sound

The scary apparition happened. A new major fire is rapidly developing on the western slopes of the Central Washington Cascades. Now known as the Bolt Creek Fire, this man-initiated fire is being ignited by strong winter winds and low relative humidity. And a huge plume of smoke is heading for Everett and north of the Sound.

Take a look at the latest visible satellite imagery (at around 12:30pm). You can see the smoke from the Bolt Creek fire… heading northwest directly over Everett. To the south, the large Cedar Creek Fire in central Oregon Cascadses spread smoke northwest to the Long Beach Peninsula. That smoke will move north through central Puget Sound by dinnertime.

The Bolt Creek Fire formed overnight as strong winter winds developed. There is no lightning, so this is man-initiated. The flame is so powerful that it has a pyrocumulus directly above it (a deep convection cloud resembling a flare-induced thunderstorm) and is even visible in Camano Island’s weather radar (see below).

Air quality in the area is mixed, with moderate air quality compared to Puget Sound and Willamette Vally. Enough to have a pungent smell of burnt wood.

As noted earlier, the odd aspect of this event is the strong winter currents, especially through the Cascades and the western slopes. As this winter runoff descends on the western slopes of the Cascades, it has warmed by compression. And such warming also leads to low relative humidity.

Want to be impressed with the profound effects of this off-season winter run? Here are the winds, gusts, temperature and 7am relative humidity around Enumclaw, in the foothills of the Cascades.

OH! Humidity 75 degrees, relative humidity 20% and gusts of 31 mph in Enumclaw (red arrow). A few miles away, it had a temperature of 45F, 93% RH, and barely any wind. 30 degree difference within a few miles!! One has a great fire threat, the other, very little.

Winter winds are causing temperatures to spike in western Washington, particularly downstream of the topographic barriers. The 60s and 70s near the water of Northwest Washington, the 80s lower in the central and southern Sound, the 80s to 90s up near the foothills of the Cascades. About 90F downstream of the Olympics.

The winter winds will be much weaker on Sunday, so expect a significant cooling off.

What about smoke? West Washington will be completed by Monday. Take a look at the HRRR smoke model forecast below. As of 2 p.m. today, the Oregon plume of smoke is extending to SW Washington.

And by 10 p.m., significant amounts of smoke from it will cover Seattle!

More smoke (mostly high smoke) will blanket the area by 9 a.m. Sunday.

But by Monday morning, currents off the Pacific Ocean will rapidly move the smoke eastward.

Next week, temperatures will drop to the 70s, then the 60s. Warmth will become memories.

Finally, we should consider the poor around Portland, where more than 30,000 customers have had their power cut off to prevent wildfires caused by power lines. It seems to be working. But they are dealing with no AC, spoiled food, no lights, and more. It should be possible to safely re-energize them tomorrow.

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