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If you have to drive, state officials urge you to take it slow and leave plenty of space.

PMG PHOTO: HOLLY BARTHOLOMEW - Willamette Falls is barely visible from the Arch Bridge because of thick smoke in the area Friday, Sept. 11.Do drive slowly. Don't follow too closely. Do use your headlights. But don't, if possible, drive at all.

That's the advice Sunday, Sept. 13, from the Oregon Department of Transportation for residents of northwest Oregon.

Heavy fog rolled into the region Sunday morning, significantly worsening what had already been poor visibility due to smoke from several wildfires burning across Oregon and Washington.

The smoggy conditions mean air quality that is unhealthy at best and hazardous at worst, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and also poses serious difficulties for drivers.

ODOT said Sunday morning the best way to stay safe is not to drive unless "absolutely" necessary.

Several roads remain closed and much of Clackamas and Marion counties are still off-limits altogether due to wildfires burning in those areas.

Drivers should check conditions before getting on the road, if driving is unavoidable.

ODOT encourages drivers to use their headlights, including fog lights if possible, for visibility.

"Use low-beams as high-beams reflect off the moisture in the air and cause glare," the department noted.

Slowing down and leaving plenty of distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you is very important, ODOT said.

"Remember that everyone else on the road is in the same fix you're in," the department added.

ODOT said if visibility is impaired to the point at which you cannot see far enough ahead of you to drive, pull off to the side of the road — out of the travel lane — and turn off your lights until it's safe to continue.

People, especially those with underlying health conditions or elevated risk factors, are encouraged to stay indoors as much as possible.

Drivers should consider using the air circulation feature in their vehicles, if available, to limit the amount of smoky outside air that is brought into the cabin.

Smoke conditions are expected to improve somewhat Monday, Sept. 14, although the National Weather Service's Portland forecast office cautioned Sunday morning that some degree of smoke is likely to linger in the Willamette Valley into midweek.

Visibility is expected to clear up to an extent later Sunday as the fog lifts, although smoke will continue to limit it.

By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
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