Air Quality Update For Western Montana, August 7, 2017

Aug 7, 2017
Originally published on August 7, 2017 9:56 am

Here's today's morning air quality update from Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield:

"Good morning, The combination of fire activity and morning temperature inversions has led to some air quality impacts around Missoula County. Unsurprisingly, Seeley Lake continues to bear the brunt of our local wildfire smoke. Air quality is currently Hazardous in Seeley Lake. When air quality is Hazardous, all people should limit or avoid outdoor exertion and stay indoors when possible. Anyone experiencing symptoms of heart of lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their health care provider.

The air in Seeley Lake is bad, folks. For those of you who don't haunt the Montana DEQ's Today's Air monitoring website on an hourly basis, here's the comparison: Conditions in Missoula are not great this morning. It smells bad, there's scummy brown smoke on the horizon, and you can only see down to Lolo if you tilt your head and squint. At 8:00 a.m., the Missoula particulate (PM2.5) concentration, as measured at our Boyd Park monitor near Malfunction Junction, was 52.2 ug/m3. That's not clean air by anyone's standards, and if you feel crummy, it's with good reason. That same hour in Seeley Lake was 830.8. ug/m3. That is air you could chew on.

Now, the good news is that the conditions in Seeley Lake should once again rapidly improve later today as the inversion breaks and the smoke trapped in the valley is able to lift off the floor. However, this kind of repeated exposure to hazardous levels of wildfire smoke is bad for every person in Seeley Lake. We recommend people who are being exposed to wildfire smoke invest in a HEPA air filter to create a cleaner space in their homes. I know I've posted this before, but I'm posting it again. Climate Smart Missoula has put together a nice resource on HEPA air filters:

Smoke from the Rice Ridge fire is once again settling into the Swan Valley, where conditions may be Unhealthy or worse.

Air quality in Condon should improve by this afternoon. Air quality in Lolo is Unhealthy this morning. In this morning's satellite photo, you can see smoke from both the Lolo Peak and the Little Hogback fires making its way to the Lolo area. Lolo is also likely to start seeing improvements by the afternoon. When air quality is Unhealthy, 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.

So far, Florence has escaped the worst of that smoke, and conditions there are currently Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Smoke that tipped over into the Bitterroot Valley from the Little Hogback and Lolo Peak fire made its way north into Missoula, where conditions have deteriorated to Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. When air quality is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups, people with heart or lung disease, children and the elderly should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. The smoke hasn't made it very far from the southern part of the Missoula Valley.

Conditions in Arlee and Frenchtown are considerably better than what we're seeing in Missoula. Air quality in both these areas is currently Moderate.

Air quality should improve at all locations later this morning and into the early afternoon as temperatures warm up and inversions begin to break. However, the east breezes will likely continue to deliver smoke from the Little Hogback fire to the Bitterroot valley, so conditions in Florence and Lolo may fluctuate.

Today we're looking at another round of hot and dry weather with light easterly surface and transport winds. This means we will see some fire activity, but smoke from the Sunrise Fire and Lolo Peak Fire will likely be headed toward the west for most of the day. We're under a persistent weather pattern, and today may look quite a bit like yesterday. If so, we should be mostly dealing with visibility impacts by this afternoon.

Locations near active fires may see smoke again this evening as the sun sets and smoke starts to settle in area valleys. The confounding factor is, of course, smoke from fires outside Montana. "

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