FARGO — Smoke from Canadian wildfires in Manitoba and western Ontario blew into northwestern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota Saturday afternoon, July 6, as a result of winds out of the north and high pressure approaching from the west.
WDAY-TV meteorologist Andrew Whitmyer cautioned that the haze can pose some risk.
“If you just step outside, you can smell the smoke, and anyone who’s even just slightly sensitive to the smoke here in Fargo-Moorhead is going to notice the effects of that smoke, and it’s going to be very difficult to breathe,” Whitmyer said.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced an air quality alert for the northern third of the state, with some areas reaching the orange category, where air pollution has deteriorated to unhealthy levels for sensitive groups.
This includes people with asthma or other breathing conditions, children and teenagers, people performing extended or heavy physical activity outdoors, and those sensitive to changes in ozone.
The agency said visibility has decreased to under 1-2 miles in some areas due to the smoke. During times of unhealthy air quality, rescue inhalers should be carried and physical activity limited.
The alert will remain in the orange category in Minnesota until Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, Whitmyer said, the Fargo-Moorhead area will likely see relief a bit earlier than that.
“Our wind is going to switch more out of the south and east by" Sunday, he said. "That’s going to help move that smoke right back up into Canada and out of our area."
Intense wildfire activity in Canada and the length of its wildfire season are increasing as its climate becomes warmer and drier.
Smoke and haze from wildfires outside of North Dakota have lowered the state’s air quality scores for the past three years, with this year’s highest score earned being a “C” in Cass County.