Beijing Rains and a Prayer for Clean Air

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After several days of smoggy skies and widespread skepticism about whether Beijing can get air pollution under control in time for the start of the Olympics next week, the city caught a break. Last night produced thunder but little rain, but the skies finally opened up around mid-morning. The downpour was short but effective. For most of the afternoon I could see out my office window to the Western Hills, which are on the far side of the city from TIME’s bureau. The air pollution index for the previous 24 hours registered 90, within the Olympic target of 100 or below. Now if the rain gods can keep it coming for nine more days. Or is it the cloud seeders we should be calling upon? Regardless, the Beijing air pollution forecast says we can expect pretty good conditions through Thursday. Which means the city may avoid the even more extreme vehicle restrictions Gracye discusses below.