Western Oregon is engulfed in smoke in this satellite photo from

DEQ air quality site overloaded

With unhealthy levels of smoke billowing all along the state's Interstate 5 corridor, internet servers are feeling the heat.

For most of Tuesday, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's Air Quality Index website suffered from loading issues. A note on the website said it was because of "high web traffic."

As of Tuesday afternoon, Google analytics traffic numbers for the state agency's air quality website weren't available, DEQ spokesman Greg Svelund said. The state's Oregon Smoke Blogspot page — operated in partnership with fire agencies, Oregon Health Authority and DEQ — saw more than 30,000 unique visitors Monday.

Last week, the DEQ's air quality site saw a 673 percent increase over the previous week, Svelund said, with 254,854 page views.

"That's almost seven times as many visits as the previous week," Svelund said.

Aside from a few intermittent problems, the site was keeping up with demand until yesterday, about the same time the Portland metropolitan area started seeing smoke at unhealthy levels. Falling ash has been reported in that area stemming from fires in the Columbia River Gorge, according to the Oregon Smoke Blog.

"Portland just put it over the edge," Svelund said. "We were fine until yesterday."

High pressure, easterly winds and increased fire activity caused air quality to reach unhealthy levels primarily in the city of Gresham and eastern parts of the Portland metro area.

In addition to smoke hitting the state's most populated area, Svelund said the quantity of smoke is also drawing extra traffic to the site.

"I see people pulling that up when I'm out and about," Svelund said. "It's a good thing, it's just a little too much to handle at the moment."

Svelund said the air quality site is slated to be moved to a new, more robust server within six months, but "not in time for this season."

Southern Oregon has struggled with unhealthy levels of smoke since Aug. 13, but Oregon Smoke Blog satellite images and reports show that wildfire smoke is also at unhealthy levels throughout the western portions of the state. In Salem, a National Weather Service air quality alert is in place through Tuesday evening; in Eugene, the smoke closed outdoor events over the weekend, such as a Gipsy Kings concert at the Cuthbert Amphitheater.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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