The National Weather Service had welcome news Friday for Anchorage residents coughing and sneezing because of high pollen counts and wildfire smoke: Rain is on the way.
"Rain tends to bring a lot of suspended matter out of the air," said Matt Stichick, an environmental engineer with the city's air quality program. "The particles are being weighted down by water and falling down to the ground."
A new weather pattern will blanket much of the state with rain by early next week, pushing out dry air and bringing in moisture from the Pacific Ocean, the Weather Service said. The forecast calls for a chance of rain in Anchorage Tuesday, as well as precipitation in nearly all surrounding areas, including the western Kenai Peninsula where the Funny River Horse Trail Fire burns and the Susitna Valley not far from where a second fire burns near Tyonek.
"Nothing is guaranteed at this point," said Eddie Zingone, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service. "But it is looking favorable."
The last time rain fell in the city was May 6, Zingone said. Less than one-fifth of an inch was measured.
Over the next few days, before the change in weather, Anchorage health officials say things could be gray.
On Friday, the city's health department extended an air quality health advisory through Memorial Day weekend, warning residents that smoke from the wildfires may invade the city early Saturday morning and linger until Sunday night. People especially sensitive to air pollution should stay indoors, the advisory said.
Rain isn't a cure-all, Stichick said. It will suppress pollen and smoke for a short time. When the rain stops, both will reappear.
Reach Tegan Hanlon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By TEGAN HANLON