The Oregon Haze

During the end of August 2020, dozens of California wildfires set fire to hundreds and thousands of acres due to dry conditions and warmer temperatures. Each year, temperatures have been climbing due to global warming, causing these California wildfires to spread to neighboring states, becoming a more deadly occurrence than in previous years. This past year, however, has set a record. Oregon, along with other West Coast states, were covered in thick smoke lasting for weeks. With evacuation warnings and worldwide panic over the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens around the country grew anxious as the fires continued to spread.

Plumes of smoke from the fires are so large, they have crossed the US and the Atlantic Ocean, carried by the jet stream, and have reached the skies of Europe. -BBC News

At the time, this was a scary event for both my community and me. Here is how my experience went:

Having lived in Eugene all summer, it was finally time for me to move into my new apartment before starting my senior year. As I opened my curtains to let in some light while I prepared breakfast, I noticed that it was a bit foggy outside. This was unusual as Eugene did not begin to get foggy until later in the Fall. Then I got a text. The smoke from the California fires was on its way to Oregon. I had heard of these monstrous fires terrorizing California for years but never had I witnessed the effects up in Oregon. 

As my roommate and I started packing our rooms up in preparation to move the next day, we began to smell ash or something burning. We looked out the window and squealed. The air was painted green as the haze of smoke and ash started flooding in from the South. We hoped that by tomorrow this haze would be wisped away by the wind. We were wrong. 

Carrying our large boxes and carts of things down the elevator to the first floor, I could taste the smoke seeping through my mask. My eyes burned with each blink. I was shocked to see Oregon under such a blanket. I started to think that this is what millions of Californians had to deal with each year—worried that the gigantic flames would surely engulf their homes. I couldn’t imagine the hurt and loss that many had undergone in previous years. I was humbled at that moment and carried on climbing the stairs as I emptied my room. News stations advised that all persons stay inside as the air quality reached a hazardous level. But, my roommate and my two other friends did not stop. We had to get our things out of the apartment; otherwise, we would be fined. 

This is a picture I took as I was moving. Taken on Sept. 9th of 2020.

A few days later, we were all settled into our new place, yet the smoke did not let up. In fact, the smoke had gotten worse. The fires had spread to neighboring counties, and evacuations were being issued. 

On the left a screenshot on the air quality index in Eugene, OR on Sept. 10th 2020. On the left a snapchat screenshot of Salem, Oregon on Sept. 8th 2020.

Panic overwhelmed me on top of caution related to COVID-19. I was a wreck. My phone would bing with evacuation notifications. Fear paralyzed me over the next few days.

To escape the bad air quality in Eugene, my boyfriend and I drove to Portland, Oregon, hoping that the smoke wouldn’t follow us; we were wrong again. On the freeway, signs became hidden, and street signs barely shined bright enough for the traffic. It was like we were living amid an apocalypse. The streets were bare, and mostly all restaurants and stores were closed. Portland was a ghost town. 

Pictures I took on Sep. 15th 2020 in Portland, Oregon.

After a week and a half, the haze finally cleared. I was so grateful for clear skies. Global warming is a real thing, and many of us do not take it as seriously as we should. I want to start advocating and promoting more ways to preserve this beautiful earth we live on. Below I have linked a few organizations that make our world a better place. Check them out!

Let me know in the comments how you help the earth stay healthy!

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