Sky glows over Minot

Kim Fundingsland/MDN The sun over Minot Wednesday morning was shining through a haze of smoke, casting a somewhat orange glow over the city. The smoke is coming primarily from vast forest fires in western Montana.

A smoky haze enveloped Minot and much of North Dakota Wednesday. More is expected today. It is not without concern.

The State Department of Health Wednesday urged people to limit outdoor exposure. Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality issued an Air Quality Alert.

The National Weather Service forecast for Wednesday read: “Areas of smoke before 2 p.m. Sunny, with a high near 84. North wind 5 to 7 mph becoming east in the afternoon.”

“It was an awfully hazy one this morning. The vast majority of the smoke is coming from Montana,” said Allen Schlag, Bismarck NWS, Wednesday morning.

Citing significant smoke from western United States and Canadian wildfires, smoke remains in the forecast for the Minot area again today. A predominant westerly wind supported by the strong flow of the overhead jet stream in the upper atmosphere is why the wildfire smoke has carried all the way from western Montana to North Dakota.

While the presence of the smoke has made for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, there are real concerns associated with air quality. Particulate matter contained in the smoky air can be irritating to virtually anyone’s respiratory system. People at particular risk are those who have respiratory conditions, the elderly and the young.

The Department of Health advises people to “consider limiting prolonged outdoor activities while smoky conditions remain across the region.” Several areas in Montana are rated “very unhealthy” by that state’s Department of Environmental Quality, meaning those at risk should avoid any outdoor activity and everyone else should avoid prolonged exertion. Montana’s DEQ testing shows that levels of particulate matter in the air are rated as unhealthy at several locations, including the major city of Billings.

While smoke remains in Minot’s forecast today a changing pattern in the weather may help bring an end to the cause. There is an increasing chance of rainfall over much of the fire ravaged regions of Montana in the coming days.