Weekend wildfire smoke impacts local air quality

If you were outdoors at all over the weekend, you probably experienced the heat and humidity, but you also probably noticed the extensive and extreme haziness in the sky.

The weekend was full of 90 degree heat and high humidity. The humidity not only made things feel uncomfortable both Saturday and Sunday, but it also helped to make conditions slightly hazy. However, the humidity wasn’t the main reason behind the gray and white colored sky during the day and extraterrestrial-like sunsets during the evening.

Just like the western United States, our northern neighbors in Ontario, Canada are dealing with an extreme wildfire season. There are more than 60 wildfires covering the province of Ontario. Light north-northwesterly winds helped to bring that wildfire smoke into the upper Midwest over the weekend. It made the sky look dirty and made air quality unhealthy.

Dr. Todd Mahr, a pediatric allergy specialist at Gundersen Health Systems of La Crosse said, "Somebody who is normal, it is going to be an irritant. It won’t hurt them if you’re otherwise normal and healthy. The people that are at risk are those who are very young, teenagers, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions. The chronic conditions that really are at most risk are asthma, COPD, and heart disease."

The wildfire smoke not only made air quality unhealthy for some over the weekend, but it also made for poor viewing conditions for the Perseid Meteor Shower on Saturday evening. It may not be the last time wildfire smoke passes over the upper Midwest, so it’s best to be prepared.

Dr. Mahr added, "Plan your events accordingly. Don’t spend a lot of time; if you’re in those high risk categories, you don’t want to spend a lot of time outdoors when these alerts are high. You definitely don’t want to be exercising. That increases your respiratory rate. That puts a harder load on your lungs and heart to be able to handle things.

The Ontario wildfires continue to ravage homes and lives, but there is some hope with rain in the forecast over the next couple of days. Fire departments from both Minnesota and Wisconsin have been called in to help battle those flames just north of the border. It has been an extreme wildfire season in Ontario, so far. The province has surpassed their ten year wildfire average, which the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry attributes to a high amount of lightning strikes sparking flames this summer.

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