MISSOULA — The air was a bit better this early morning than it was yesterday morning, but it’s not great, according to Sarah Coefield, Air Quality Specialist with the Missoula City-County Health Department.
Air quality is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups in Frenchtown and just hit Unhealthy in Missoula. Conditions are currently Moderate in Seeley Lake.
When air quality is Unhealthy [missoulacounty.us], people with heart or lung disease, smokers, children and the elderly should limit heavy or prolonged exertion and limit time spent outdoors. People with asthma should follow their asthma management plan. People experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their health care provider.
When air quality is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups [missoulacounty.us], people with heart or lung disease, children and the elderly should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Anyone experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their health care provider.
The inversion should break around noon, at which point the smoke in our valleys will lift up. That’s the good news. The question is what happens next. The surface and transport winds are pretty light today, so smoke from nearby fires won’t be exiting the region with much speed and there’s a decent chance we’ll see smoke in the valleys later this afternoon thanks to atmospheric mixing. When the skies are clear, the up and down air movement we see in the afternoons is a good thing - it rids us of overnight and morning smoke. Unfortunately, if the skies are full of smoke, that mixing can pull overhead smoke down to ground level.
This afternoon’s breezes will have a northwesterly component, which will likely bring smoke from the Deep Lookout Mountain Fire (part of the West Lolo Complex [inciweb.nwcg.gov]) into Missoula County. Frenchtown and Missoula are both lined up to catch smoke from that fire.
If you’re out and about this afternoon and you notice the mountain tops are getting progressively hazier, and the haze is oozing downward, that’s a good sign the air quality is about to tank.
With fires to our northwest, west and southwest, we’re going to continue to see smoke on a daily basis. Stay alert for changing conditions and check TodaysAir.mt.gov [svc.mt.gov] for updated air quality data. Be sure to check out www.MontanaWildfireSmoke.org [montanawildfiresmoke.org] for great tips for staying healthy this fire season.
The Deep Lookout Mountain Fire will likely be our primary smoke contributor this afternoon. Photo Source: NASA GOES 17