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Entries in Montana air quality (5)


Weather change should help MT air quality

Helena was the only place showing "unhealthy" air Wednesday afternoon(MISSOULA)- A combination of early morning fog and afternoon haze that's been occurring across Western Montana should be coming to an end, as an incoming system helps to end inversions that were setting up over the valleys. 

Tuesday, warmer air aloft was beginning to trap smoke and other particulates in the valley floors, beginning to create air quality that was unhealthy for young children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems. 

But by mid-day Wednesday, Montana DEQ monitors were only showing air quality problems in the Helena valley. Most other locations, including the Missoula and Bitterroot Valleys, and Northwest Montana were showing "moderate" air quality. 

With the forecast for a return to mix rain and snow Thursday it's expected slick driving conditions will be more of a problem than air quality for the remainder of the week.


Inversions returning to Western MT valleys 

(MISSOULA)- The fresh air was nice while it lasted. 

However, the return of a ridge of high pressure is already bringing a return of inversions to the valleys of Western Montana. 

Inversions are created in the Northern Rockies when warmer air is present at higher elevations, trapping colder air, and particulates from wood stoves and other sources at the surface. There have already been several episodes where air quality dropped this winter, and forecasters are expecting those conditions to return going into this weekend. 

The Missoula, Bitterroot, Mission, Flathead and Helena valleys are especially susceptible to these developing conditions. Montana DEQ reports most air quality was still "moderate" as of Thursday morning, although Seeley Lake had already seen some readings in the "unhealthy" range, which causes problems for people with repiratory conditions.  


Air quality continues to be a problem in some Montana valleys

Dennis Bragg photo (MISSOULA)- A prolonged stretch of high pressure, combined with cold and stagnant air is creating a building problem with poor air quality in many of Montana's valleys this week. 

Conditions began to change on Thanksgiving, as cold and dense air trapped at the surface by warmer temperatures and sunshine aloft started to trap particulates from wood smoke, car exhaust and other sources. 

The problem has been especially noticeable in Northwest Montana. And Monday the Missoula City-County Health Department issued a Stage 1 air quality alert. The department is advising the elderly, people with respiratory problems and children to avoid prolonged exertion and exposure to outside air. 

The situation may improve the second half of the week, as incoming storm systems could scour our the valleys with fresher air. 


Change in weather helps air quality

Gates of the Mountains- USFS photo(HELENA)-  A change in the weather has not only made temperatures more comfortable across the state, it's also helped improve air quality. 

Several regions have been coping with smoke from wildfires in Idaho and Eastern Washington that has continued to pour into Western Montana the past several days. Smaller fires in Montana have also been contributing to the haze. 

But now, Montana DEQ reports Tuesday's gusty winds and thunderstorms have helped to clear the air in some areas.

DEQ says the Flathead Valley, and parts of Southwest Montana continued to have some smoke today. The air in the Flathead is still rated Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. Moderate air quality is reported in Billings. 

The forecast is for a continuation of unsettled weather the rest of the week, with more showers and thunderstorms helping to "scrub" the air. However, fire activity in Central Idaho could also deliver more smoke into Western Montana. 


More prescribed burns in Idaho sending smoke into NW MT

Residents living in Noxon, Thompson Falls, Troy and even Libby will be breathing more smoke this weekend, as new prescribed burns in Idaho send fumes across the border.

People living in the Lower Clark Fork, Bull River and Kootenai River country began noticing an increase in smoke late Friday afternoon. Checks show the smoke is coming from several prescribed burns taking place on the Idaho side of the Bitterroot Divide.

The Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest is conducting the burns in several areas as a means of cutting wildfire risk and improving the health of the forest.

“These prescribed fires complement local community wildfire protection plans, and provide great benefits to forest health,” said District Ranger Randy Swick. “The end result will be reduced wildfire risks for local communities, improved wildlife habitat and a large step toward restoring the forest’s resiliency to threats such as uncharacteristic fires, insects and disease.”

Up to 4,000 acres of national forest system lands could be burned this fall, primarily in designated roadless areas, such as Lost Creek, Whitetail Creek, Jordan Creek, and West Elk Creek. Prescribed burning of natural fuels may also occur in the Prichard area, including Trouble Creek and other areas visible from Forest Highway 9.

Prescribed burning of slash created by harvest operations will occur at a smaller scale, with approximately 150 acres of burning planned in the Prichard, Thompson Pass and Moon Pass areas.

The Forest Service will be monitoring the smoke plumes to be in accordance with the air quality standards of the Montana/Idaho Airshed Group, with most of the individual burns expected to last 2 to 3 days.