USA – OMAHA, Neb. Wildfires across parts of southwest Canada and the northern Rockies are turning the sky a gray-yellow over Nebraska and Iowa.
So how is smoke from fires more than 1,100 miles away reaching our area?
Winds about two miles above the ground are out of the northwest from southern British Columbia into northern Nebraska. Those winds are taking smoke from intense fires over Canada, Idaho, and Montana, and blanketing the middle of the country.
Believe it or not, but smoke lingered over the metro area most of the weekend. That’s what caused the milky color to the sky. The smoke will be thicker Monday, causing a very hazy look to the sky — almost like a layer of clouds.
However, with stronger northwest winds near the ground, matching the direction aloft, some of that smoke is mixing down to the ground. Residents may smell smoke over all of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa Monday afternoon and evening.
At this point, there are no widespread forecast impacts to air quality. However, medical experts say people with respiratory issues, like asthma or allergies, may experience some breathing problems.
“In the last couple of days we’ve had people come in with wheezing, and flares of their asthma that we’ve been taking care of,” family physician Dr. Trisha Powers told KETV.
When the Air Quality Index (AQI) is above 50, Powers says people with respiratory or heart conditions should take it easy.
“Probably limit your exertion with activities because the more you breathe the more you’re going to be inhaling those particles down into your lungs,” Powers said.
Monday’s AQI in Omaha peaked in the upper 80s early in the morning, which is on the upper end of the ‘moderate’ range, then dropped back down under 50 mid-afternoon.
“Anything less than 50 is considered healthy for everybody to go outside,” Powers said.
The north winds continue on Tuesday and Wednesday, so it’s possible to have another day or two of haze and smoke in the air, but meteorologists believe the worst of the haze has passed, and it will continue to clear up in the coming days.