Baker County’s air quality improved slightly Thursday and Friday and could be even better early this weekend, but forecasters say wildfire smoke likely will slink back and sully skies for much of next week.

On Thursday the average air quality index in Baker City dropped, albeit barely, into the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category after being in the “unhealthy” category on each of the previous 5 days.

Thursday’s average was 150, the top of the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range. An air quality index of 151 to 200 is in the “unhealthy category.” The worst days were Sept. 13, with a daily average of 199, and Sept. 12, with an average of 196.

On Friday morning the index dropped to 130, still in the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category (101-150).

A sensor on the roof of the David J. Wheeler Federal Building, 1550 Dewey Ave., measures air quality in Baker City.

The National Weather Service predicted that showers and winds later Friday and into Saturday could help further clean the atmosphere.

But starting Sunday the weather pattern is forecast to revert to what prevailed for much of the past week. That means upper level winds from the southwest that could propel smoke from continuing blazes in northern California into Eastern Oregon.

The next likely chance for relief from the smoke is late in the coming week when another storm from the Pacific Ocean could move into Oregon, bringing the possibility of more rain showers and westerly winds to push smoke away.

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