Air quality alert issued for wildfire smoke

Air quality is expected to reach the unhealthy, red category in northwest Minnesota from Wednesday night, May 17 through Thursday morning, May 18.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for 10 p.m. May 17 through noon May 18, 2023, for portions of northern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air quality alert for northern Minnesota effective from 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 17 through noon Thursday, May 18.

The affected area includes northwest and north central Minnesota and the tribal nations of Leech Lake, Red Lake and Mille Lacs.

A band of heavy, ground-level smoke from wildfires in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan is currently moving southeast and stretches from southern Manitoba to Montana. A strong cold front is expected to push this smoke south through northwest Minnesota, starting around 10 p.m. Wednesday and reaching central and southwest Minnesota by noon Thursday. Smoke will begin to clear and air quality should improve across northwest Minnesota beginning Thursday afternoon.

Fine particle levels are expected to reach the red air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for everyone, across northwest Minnesota. In the red area, including Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Roseau and the Red Lake tribal nation, everyone should avoid prolonged time outdoors.

Fine particle levels are expected to reach the orange AQI, considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, across north central Minnesota including Hubbard County as well as Ely, International Falls, Brainerd, and the tribal nations of Leech Lake and Mille Lacs. In these areas, sensitive groups should avoid prolonged time outdoors.


In areas with a red AQI, the sky may look smoky, the air will look hazy and you won't be able to see long distances. You may smell smoke. Anyone may experience symptoms such as irritated eyes, nose and throat, coughing, chest tightness or shortness of breath. Sensitive or more exposed people may experience more serious health effects, including worsening of existing heart or lung disease and respirotory and cardiovascular conditions, possibly leading to asthma attack, heart attack or stroke. People are advised to reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks and avoid intense activities to reduce exposure. Sensitive and more exposed people should avoid prolonged or vigorous activities and consider shortening, rescheduling or moving outdoor events inside.

In areas with an orange AQI, she sky may look hazy and residents may smell smoke. For sensitive groups, pollution may aggravate heart and lung disease and cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, with symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and fatigue. Sensitive people are encouraged to reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks or do less intense activities to reduce their exposure. People with asthma should follow their asthma action plan and keep their rescue inhaler nearby.

Sensitive groups include people with asthma or breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, pregnant women, children and older adults. People with increased exposure include those who do longer or more vigorous physical activity outdoors, who don't have air conditioning and need to keep windows open to stay cool, and people in housing not tight enough to keep unhealthy air out, or who do not have permanent shelter.

Anyone experiencing health effects related to poor air quality should contact their health care provider. If you experience severe symptoms, chest pain, trouble breathing, or fear you may be having a heart attack or stroke, call 911 immediately.

For more information about AQI categories, visit . Visit the MPCA's air quality index webpage for information on current air quality conditions in your area. Learn more about air quality and health here . Learn about actions you can take to protect your health against wildfire smoke here . Learn what you can do about air pollution here .

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