Canadian Wildfire Smoke Engulfs Central US, Threatening Lingering Effects
Officials issue warnings as smoke from Canadian wildfires infiltrates parts of the central US, raising concerns about prolonged presence in the coming days. On Thursday, health and weather authorities cautioned the public about deteriorating air quality, prompting air quality alerts across several states such as Nebraska, Washington, Montana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Wyoming also issued a special weather statement addressing the impact on air quality.
The most concentrated smoke is expected to gradually shift eastward into the Midwest, affecting major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis later in the day. Canada has experienced an unusually active start to its fire season, with devastating wildfires in Alberta scorching an area over 150 times larger than the combined area burned in the province during the same period over the past five years.
The National Weather Service in Omaha issued a tweet on Thursday, warning that “Canadian wildfire smoke is moving through the area today until tomorrow morning, resulting in potentially hazardous air quality and reduced visibility across eastern Nebraska and Iowa. It is advisable to limit outdoor activities when air quality is poor!” The Omaha office of the National Weather Service also reported that smoke had begun to envelop the Lincoln and Omaha metro areas, causing visibility to drop to 1-2 miles within a few hours and pushing air quality into the unhealthy range for sensitive groups.
The Douglas County Health Department in eastern Nebraska, encompassing Omaha, issued a warning that the smoke could persist until Saturday. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index indicated “very unhealthy” air quality early Friday in parts of the Rockies, Great Plains, and Midwest, including the Nebraska Panhandle and the northeast region of the state.