National Weather Service: Thick smoke will stick around

Catching a sunlit view of the Table Rocks or Roxy Ann won't be available to Rogue Valley early risers for some time, due to the loitering clouds of smoke that don't show any sign of moving through at least the middle of next week.

National Weather Service officials said there will be brief here-and-there moments of clearing, but lack of winds and inhibited air mixing mean there's no significant change in the forecast.

"Right through next week, other than small changes, temporary changes, there's nothing significant that's going to shift the wind direction," said meteorologist Ryan Sandler. "Any temporary relief would be short-lived."

The smoke is the result of numerous lightning-caused fires burning in southwest Oregon, multiple-blaze complexes that have devoured thousands of acres and forced hundreds of evacuations across the region.

Some cool air moving through the upper levels of the atmosphere could provide a little reprieve during the daytime hours, but during the night, the smoke will settle back into the valleys.

"It just kind of hangs over us. It's not strong," Sandler said of the upper level flow. "There's no real change in the air mass, that's kind of the key."

The lack of air mixing between the upper and lower levels of the atmosphere is common for this time of year, Sandler said, the smoke makes such air movement even more difficult.

A red flag warning also continues until 11 tonight because of a chance of additional lightning strikes around the dry region. None have been documented so far, Sandler said.

Areas around Crater Lake, Diamond Lake and the Umpqua Basin have the highest likelihood of being hit, weather service officials said.

The smoke has already forced closures of some tourism attractions. The Bureau of Land Management closed the Rogue River's wild section to watercraft because of thick smoke and fires from the triple-fire Big Windy Complex burning 25 miles northwest of Grants Pass. The complex's Big Windy, Calvert Peak and Jenny Creek fires had burned nearly 3,000 acres as of Tuesday, according to the national Fire Incident Information System.

The smoke also forced the cancellation of the Oregon Shakespeare's outdoor production of "Cymbeline" Tuesday. OSF officials are currently meeting to discuss plans for future outdoor shows if the smoke lingers, spokeswoman Amy Richard said.

Britt Festivals said the classical festival will open Friday as originally scheduled.

— Ryan Pfeil

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