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Clear skies in Medford forecast, but only briefly

Friday’s smoke break won’t last the weekend, meteorologists say

Southern Oregon could start the weekend with a brief break in the persistent smoke that’s blanketed the region, according to local meteorologists, but more lasting improvements are weeks away.

Strong westerly winds are expected to push smoke out of the Rogue Valley Friday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Smith.

“I think the Rogue Valley could be pretty nice Friday afternoon and evening,” Smith said.

Smith expects the improved air quality to last only “a day or so,” and the forecast expects that smoke will persist in parts of Southern Oregon that are immediately east of the fires, such as areas near Lakeview and Crater Lake National Park.

“The fires are still there, unfortunately,” Smith said.

Thursday morning rain showers were hardly measurable, with Smith calling it “a wetting of the ground” and ”a little more than a drizzle.“

The rain also did little to improve Medford’s air quality Thursday. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality air quality monitor near Welch and West Jackson streets showed mildly improved air quality in the 140s between 7 and 10 a.m. Thursday — narrowly considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups” — and was back to “unhealthy” by 11 a.m. and into the afternoon.

The Interagency Wildland Fire Air Quality Response Program’s smoke outlook for the South Oregon Cascades predicts overall "moderate“ air quality Friday — an improvement from Thursday’s overall ”unhealthy“ air quality.

DEQ’s air quality advisory for Jackson County is expected to last until at least Monday afternoon.

Much of the region’s poor air quality stems from continued burnout operations fighting wildfires in Douglas County. As of Thursday, the Devil’s Knob complex burning in the Umpqua National Forest Tiller Ranger District was estimated at 63,678 acres and 35% contained, the Rough Patch fire in the Calapooya Divide is estimated at 44,434 acres and 35% contained.

More rain was expected overnight into Friday morning, but Smith said meteorologists were watching a weather system expected in about a week and a half that could bring more sustained wet weather and “cooler than normal” temperatures.

“How wet it gets is still up in the air,” Smith said.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.