MISSOULA - It’s not the wholesale air quality improvement you’re hoping for, but Missoula County air quality specialists say weather changes should help us breathe a little easier this weekend.
Once again on Friday, air quality in Missoula and across most of Western Montana has ranged from “unhealthy” to “hazardous” as we remain buried in a thick blanket of fire smoke. In fact, locations like Seeley Lake continue to set records with unheard of layers of smoke.
But Missoula City-County Health Department’s Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield says with the obnoxious high-pressure ridge starting to shift east, the smoke should begin to ease somewhat overnight. And winds Saturday will continue to help mix in better air, although critical fire weather could generate new smoke.
“With the high pressure ridge moving east we’re going to start seeing more air movement," Coefield says. "And we are not going to be downwind as much really thick, overhead smoke in the future. The troublesome thing with those strong winds, is strong winds on the fires. And once the smoke has moved off and the sun is really able to hit those fires. We’re likely to see increased fire activity which means more smoke production.”
That means we’ll likely see a return of smoke as high pressure builds again to start next week. But Coefield is optimistic we’re seeing the worst of it right now, with a more long-term change in the weather pattern shaping up a week from now.