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Can't breathe? You aren't alone: Smoke chokes Western Oregon

Air monitors in Lane County registered Unhealthy levels of pollution from wildfire smoke on Monday, August 28. Eugene pressed up into the Very Unhealthy range as the day wore on.

EUGENE, Ore. - Can't breathe? You aren't alone.

Lane County residents awoke to Unhealthy levels of particulate matter from wildfire smoke on Monday.

RELATED | Where are the fires burning?

Eugene/Springfield, Cottage Grove and Oakridge all registered in the Red Zone for pollution, with pollutant levels more than triple the healthy level, according to Lane Regional Air Protection Agency monitors.

Oregon DEQ monitors registered similar levels in Roseburg, Medford and Ashland.

Eugene/Springfield saw pollution levels rise over the course of the morning, reaching Very Unhealthy levels by the noon hour.

By noon, the Eugene 4J School District had either canceled outdoor activities or moved them inside due to unhealthy air quality.

To the east, Sisters started the day at Unhealthy, then saw pollution levels rise to Very Unhealthy and Hazardous levels.

The culprit? Wildfires burning out of control in the Oregon Cascades, almost border to border; as well as the massive Chetco Bar Fire in the southwest corner of the state and numerous fires in northern California.

PHOTOS | Smoky Sunday sunset in Winchester Bay on the Oregon Coast

Smoke from the fires is reaching as far north as Portland, although in lighter concentrations than in the southern half of the state.

"The effects will be most pronounced today, as southerly flow at the mid-levels will continue to bring smoke from the very active southwest Oregon and northwest California fire up into our area," the National Weather Service in Portland said. "Conditions will gradually begin to improve Tuesday as the flow aloft begins to develop more of a westerly component. Then we should see dramatic improvement Wednesday as the upper trough brings stronger westerly winds."

That relief could begin as early as Monday evening for Eugene/Springfield: a smoke forecast for August 28 predicts a shift in the wind around 5 p.m. which could push the smoke out of the southern Willamette Valley and to the east.

One upshot of all the smoke: the air pollution results in vibrant sunrises and sunsets.

SHARE | Your videos and photos of smoky sunrises and sunsets

Another: Although the region is under a Heat Advisory, smoke tends to keep the days cooler - and the nights warmer.

"Where the smoke will be thicker, temperatures will be a tad warmer at night, and a few degrees cooler during the day," the National Weather Service said. "Most likely areas for this affect will be in the Cascades and foothills, from Detroit Lake to Mount Jefferson and southward through eastern Lane County."

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