Smoke

A shroud of smoke hangs over the Missouri valley west of Yankton along Highway 52 Thursday afternoon. The smoke is emanating from wildfires in western Canada. Officials with the National Weather Service said the skies may clear in a day or two.

For the next couple of days, expect smoke to get in your eyes — and nose and clothes.

The National Weather Service is monitoring the impact of current Canadian wildfires on air quality in the Great Plains. Area residents can expect to be impacted by the smoke traveling hundreds of miles into the central United States.

The travel smoke isn’t uncommon this time of year, according to NWS meteorologist Alex Ferguson.

"Generally, this happens once a summer. The fire season ramps up, and it’s usually Canadian smoke (that we receive), with the upper level winds from the north," he said.

"In this case, we have high pressure, and generally with high pressure you have sinking air in which smoke drifts south. Many things affect whether smoke stays aloft or if there are sinking patterns."

In this case, pollution can be found in rural areas.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an Air Quality Alert for fine particle pollution for western Minnesota. The alert remains in effect through 10 a.m. Saturday.

South Dakota and Nebraska don’t have state agencies that issue such alerts, Ferguson said. However, the conditions are very much in existence for the Yankton region, he added.

"Generally, this comes from the Rockies and western Canada," he said. "There is some indication of fire in Saskatchewan, but most of the fire on the (NWS) satellite comes from Alberta and British Columbia."

Those areas are prone to wildfires, Ferguson said.

"They have lots of forests in that area," he said. "Usually, these fires are generally caused by lightning strikes or set by humans, intentionally or accidentally."

Ferguson anticipates the fires will continue through the end of the week.

"These fires are expected to keep going, especially since those parts of Canada are very sparsely populated. We expect the fires to keep burning given the overall weather pattern," he said.

"We could have some smoke hanging around for the next couple of days. We have the higher pressure overhead, but by tomorrow it starts to slowly go southeast and away from us."

The upper level winds are transporting the smoke from Canada into the Great Plains, Ferguson said.

"We still could get some of this hazy smoke for the next day or two," he said. "Luckily, those upper level winds will start to slowly change by the end of the weekend. It should shut down a little bit of the new smoke coming."

In the meantime, the public needs to take precautions — particularly those individuals susceptible to breathing problems, Ferguson said.

"During late summer, people generally do outside activities when these fires start to ramp up and create smoky conditions," he said.

"Take it easy outside. If you have any respiratory conditions, generally try to avoid being outside. Also be careful about exerting yourself."

The forecast calls for continued hot conditions across South Dakota, but the weather becomes cooler heading into the eastern part of the Rushmore State.

The NWS office in Omaha has forecast temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s through the weekend for northeast Nebraska.

"Yankton should stay in the upper 80s for the next several days," Ferguson said. "Other than the smoke, there isn’t that much in the way of clouds and winds."

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