STURGIS, S.D. – Overcast skies in South Dakota are not due to clouds but smoke. Almost 90 wildfires are burning in Western Canada, sending a plume of smoke high into the atmosphere south into the United States.
According to Scott Doering, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, the smoke and smell were evident across much of the state.
“There is a lot smoke out there. Quite a few fires in Canada are active right now and smoke is working its way down to our neck of the woods. There is some clearing reported, mainly in eastern South Dakota.”
The fires have scorched about 1,800 square miles in Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, 10 times the average area burned for this time of year. As of Tuesday, 87 wildfires were burning in Alberta, a quarter classified as out of control, meaning the fires were expected to grow.
“There is a cold front coming through today so hopefully that will remove some of the smoke. But it could also push smoke closer to the ground, causing increased problems for people with breathing issues. In addition, some areas could see a reduction in visibility due to the smoke.”
Weather patterns have also pushed smoke from Canadian wildfires into North Dakota and Minnesota putting people at-risk who have conditions like asthma, COPD, and heart disease. Pregnant women, older people and the very young are also at risk. Sanford Health pulmonologist Dr. Paul Berger recommends people to reduce their outdoor activities while the skies remain smoky.
In Montana, wildfire smoke from Canada is causing unhealthy air quality across the state. As of 10:00 am Wednesday, Sydney is seeing hazardous air quality, and anyone in the area should stay indoors and reduce activity levels according to AirNow.gov. In addition, Malta is experiencing very unhealthy air quality, and anyone living in the area should keep outdoor activities short. Air quality in Broadus and the Flathead Valley is at unhealthy levels, and it is recommended people shorten the time they are active outdoors.
The National Weather Service is calling for improvements by Friday as wind across the area turns west.