(GREAT FALLS) The air quality in Great Falls on Tuesday morning is once again listed as " red" by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, which means "unhealthy."
That means that "active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion."
The air quality deteriorated on Monday afternoon into the "red" zone, and has remained there since.
There have also been numerous reports of ash falling in areas in and around Great Falls.
Other areas across Montana in the "red" zone on Tuesday include Lincoln, Hamilton, Malta, and Broadus.
The DEQ website does not have a monitoring station in or near Conrad, Valier, or other communities that are being affected by three wildfires in western Teton and Pondera counties, but we have received numerous reports from people in those towns that air quality is very poor, and ash has been falling since Monday evening.
The air quality ratings are determined by the amount of "particulate matter" (PM) in the air. The DEQ says that PM is the term for "a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye."
The primary factor in air quality across the state is the continuing wildfires; click here for the latest FireWatch information.
A pattern change in the weather is headed towards Montana later this week, bringing rain and even some mountain snow, and is expected to brief some relief from the smoky skies.
Physician Assistant Jason Kjono of Benefis Health System says people should reduce their exposure to the poor air quality as much as they can.
People can do this by staying inside, not working out too strenuously, and being in an air-conditioned area can help as well. If you have to work outside make sure you are wearing a mask, drink lots of fluids, and take a break in an area that has better air quality.
For more information about air quality readings in Montana and the health effects, click here to visit the DEQ website., which includes this overview for Tuesday:
Fires were very active yesterday, especially in northwest Montana and along the border in Canada, where high winds triggered a red flag warning. This sent a dense plume of smoke across northern Montana this morning. Most of this smoke is remaining above the ground, but air quality has reached UNHEALTHY levels in Great Falls and Malta. Fires were also active around the rest of Montana due to the breezy afternoon conditions. The additional smoke has settled into nearby valleys this morning. Air quality is HAZARDOUS in Seeley Lake and Florence; VERY UNHEALTHY in Arlee and Philipsburg; UNHEALTHY in Darby, Lincoln, and Hamilton; and UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS in Columbia Falls, Eureka, Lincoln, Missoula, Stevensville, and White Sulphur Springs. Elsewhere, air quality is generally MODERATE except in Broadus where air quality has briefly reached UNHEALTHY levels this morning.