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Canadian Wildfire Smoke Impacts U.S. for Second Consecutive Year

Winds carried plumes of smoke to northern states, triggering air quality alerts.

May 15, 2024

This week, wildfires in western Canada prompted air quality alerts and warnings across several states, including Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Winds on Monday carried plumes of smoke to the United States from 146 active Canadian wildfires, NBC News reported.

Already on Sunday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued an alert across southern Minnesota stating that the air was “unhealthy for everyone” in response to very heavy smoke from wildfires in northeast British Columbia. Unhealthy air pollution levels mean everyone in Minnesota should stay indoors and avoid heavy exertion outdoors, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said. On Monday afternoon, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, had the eighth-worst air quality of 119 major cities track by IQAIR, a business that tracks air quality worldwide, CNN reported.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said the air quality was unhealthy for sensitive people in multiple northern counties on Sunday as well, the Associated Press reported. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula also experienced hazy skies Monday, and people reported the smell of smoke, according to NBC Chicago.

This is the second consecutive year Canadian wildfires have triggered health warning in the U.S. Through the rest of the week, the National Weather Service in Chicago said prevailing winds could send smoke south and east as far as Iowa and Chicago. Still, most of the smoke was anticipated to remain over Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Michigan, according to the Associated Press.

As CMM previously reported, North America was greatly affected by Canadian wildfires last year, and Canada passed the U.S. in regional pollution rankings for the first-time. Additionally, a new report from the American Lung Association found nearly 40% of Americans are living in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution.

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