Wildfire Smoke a Hazard for Communities
May 17, 2023
In the morning of May 17, residents of Big Horn, Blaine, Carter, Custer, Daniels, Dawson, Fallon, Fergus, Gallatin, Garfield, Hill, McCone, Musselshell, Petroleum, Phillips, Powder River, Prairie, Richland, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Sheridan, Treasure, Valley, Wibaux, and Yellowstone Counties woke up to thick and strong smelling smoke. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality alert for those counties from 9 a.m. May 17 – 9 a.m. May 18.
According to Ted Jamba, of the National Weather Service in Glasgow, the smoke is coming from Canada. It is mostly coming from around Edmongton, Alberta, Canada. Alberta has been in a drought. According to John Baranick, DTN Meteorologist on http://www.dtnpf.com, since summer of 2020 Canada has been experiencing a lack of adequate rainfall. When in drought the forests and prairies up in Canada are in a heightened risk for wildfires. When there are fires in Canada and we experience winds from the North the smoke comes down into Montana and North Dakota. Jamba said, “ The winds we experienced this morning (May 17) produced a temperature inversion and trapped the smoke here. I cannot recall witnessing these fires nor smoke so early in the season. Montana has had smoke from Canada before but usually not until later in the summer or fall. I’m hoping the sun will come out and lift the smoke but it might last until Thursday evening/Friday morning when we start getting winds from the South.”
The Richland County Health Department posted on their Facebook page midmorning of May 17, “We recommend that outdoor activities be put on hold until air quality improves.” The health departments of many counties post recommendations online via their websites or Facebook pages when health hazards are present in the area.