Hazy Saturday

Smoke from fires in northwestern Ontario create a haze over Rainy Lake Saturday morning. 

Even though the weekend's air quality alert expired Sunday, another round of smoke  from Canadian wildfires may intrude into the area later this week.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reports air quality in the area improved Monday for northern and western Minnesota. However, some smoke from Wisconsin cycled in a clockwise motion around a high pressure center over western Great Lakes region, back into southeastern to eastern Minnesota Monday. South-southwest winds pushed the smoke out of the state Tuesday, but experts expect another intrusion Wednesday night into Thursday.

Wildfires in Manitoba and western Ontario prompted MPCA officials to issue an air quality alert for the northern one-third of Minnesota Saturday and Sunday. The affected area included International Falls, Duluth, Ely, all of the Boundary Water Canoe Area, and the Tribal Nations of Red Lake, Fond du Lac, and Grand Portage.

Wildfires from eastern Manitoba and western Ontario that erupted late Friday created dense smoke that moved southward into northern Minnesota as northerly winds with high pressure approached from the west. Air quality rapidly deteriorated to unhealthy levels in many areas of northern Minnesota reaching the orange, or unhealthy for sensitive groups, category.

Visibility decreased to less than 1-2 miles in many locations due to the dense smoke. 

Should another round of smoke return, MPCA reminds people of the following: 

People whose health is affected by unhealthy air quality:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema
  • Children and teenagers
  • People of all ages doing extended or heavy physical activity such as playing sports or working outdoors
  • Some healthy people who are more sensitive to ozone even though they have none of the risk factors. There may be a genetic base for this increased sensitivity.

Higher ozone levels can aggravate lung diseases like asthma, emphysema, and COPD. When air quality is in the unhealthy range, people with these conditions may experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing deeply, shortness of breath, throat soreness, wheezing, coughing, or unusual fatigue. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms use your inhalers as directed and contact your health care provider.

Take precautions:

  • Take it easy and listen to your body.
  • Limit, change, or postpone your physical activity.
  • If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires.
  • If you have asthma, or other breathing conditions like COPD, make sure you have your relief/rescue inhaler with you.
  • People with asthma should review and follow guidance in their written asthma action plan. Make an appointment to see your health provider if you don’t have an asthma action plan.

Pollution reduction tips:

  • Ozone is produced on hot, sunny days by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen.
  • Reduce vehicle trips and fill the gas tank at dawn or dusk.
  • Use public transport or carpool when possible.
  • Postpone use of gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment on air alert days. Use battery or manual equipment instead.
  • Avoid backyard fires.

For information on current air quality conditions in the area and to sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email, text message, phone, or the Minnesota Air mobile app visit https://www.pca.state.mn.us/

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