GREAT FALLS — Air quality in many areas across Montana is rated "unhealthy" in many areas on Sunday, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.
The decreased air quality is due to wildfire smoke - from fires in Montana and also in other western states.
As of Sunday morning (August 15), air quality levels are listed as UNHEALTHY at nearly all reporting stations across Montana, including Great Falls, Helena, Cut Bank, Havre, Glasgow, Missoula, Bozeman, Butte, and Billings.
When air quality is UNHEALTHY, people with heart or lung disease, smokers, children, and the elderly should limit heavy or prolonged exertion and limit time spent outdoors. People with asthma should follow their asthma management plan. People experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their healthcare provider.
The only reporting locations with better air quality are Sidney, West Yellowstone, Red Lodge, Broadus, and Birney, where the rating is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS.
When air quality is UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS, people with heart or lung disease, children and the elderly should limit prolonged outdoor exertion. Anyone experiencing symptoms of heart or lung disease associated with smoke exposure should contact their health care provider.
Here is an explanation from MT DEQ about the different categories:
- HAZARDOUS: All children and adults should avoid or limit all outdoor exertion
- VERY UNHEALTHY: Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid all outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit outdoor exertion
- UNHEALTHY: Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion
- UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS: Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion
- MODERATE: Unusually sensitive people should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion
The DEQ says that a ridge of high pressure is in place over Montana, which will keep warm and dry conditions in place, in addition to breezy afternoon winds. A larger disturbance is on its way on Monday, which should start to alleviate some smoke on Tuesday. Air quality will likely remain UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS to VERY UNHEALTHY in western Montana, with hopefully some relief Tuesday as the low pressure system strengthens and moves east.