Boundary, Shoshone and Bonner counties will likely be particularly affected by the smoke, but Kootenai could also be at risk of an air quality advisory, depending on the weather. Above the skies pictured during the fires that blanketed the area with smoke in 2017.
(File photo/CAROLINE LOBSINGER)
Hagadone News Network | May 18, 2023 1:00 AM
The regional airshed coordinator for the Department of Environmental Quality, Dan Smith, looked into his crystal ball Wednesday and didn’t like what he was seeing.
“A whole bunch of stuff, including atmospheric stuff from the Canadian government, says that smoke will be coming down from Alberta over the next day or so,” Smith said.
The “stuff” he’s referring to is data from the Canadian government on air quality. The air monitors throughout Western Canada have indicated smoke from fires traveled over Calgary, and will continue at high elevations through the atmosphere before likely settling into the Panhandle. Fires across western Canada have burned over 1,800 square miles, according to news reports.
Boundary, Shoshone and Bonner counties will likely be particularly affected by the smoke, but Kootenai could also be at risk of an air quality advisory, depending on the weather.
“Right now we’re seeing elevated levels pretty much everywhere,” Smith said.
An Air Quality Advisory could impose temporary burning restrictions to prevent air quality from getting worse. Or advisories could just inform people of the risks of being outside. People with asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease could experience elevated risk of having an attack or an episode if air quality drops.
Steps to protect the air quality inside a home can combat the effects of reduced air quality outside the home. Smith recommends changing furnace filters once a month to maintain indoor air quality during an advisory, or minimizing outdoor activities that may involve heavy breathing for people who have health risks associated with breathing.
Smith predicts advisories could be possible today, Friday and Saturday mornings and recommends people go to airquality.deq.idaho.gov/home/map throughout the day for real-time information, especially early in the morning.
“Mornings will be hazy over the next few days,” Smith said.
As the temperatures rise throughout the day and pressures change, smoke will likely rise or settle to clear the air, but Air Quality Advisories may still be necessary, depending on air quality test results through Saturday.
Nightly pressure and temperature changes could drop smoke-filled air onto the mountains and into the valleys through Saturday.
“Right now we’re at a place where I’m predicting moderate air quality, which is acceptable, but for some folks they should be concerned,” Smith said.
And he plans to actively monitor the air quality to ensure it stays at safe levels, and to keep people informed in real time.