It’s no secret that there’s something odd happening with the recent weather patterns across the United States. Hurricanes have swarmed the south with Harvey hitting Houston just a couple of weeks ago, and Irma swallowing Florida over the weekend. Meanwhile, fires can be seen across most of the Western states.
Last week, Seattleites experienced the phenomenon of ash fall; you could literally look outside and see the ash blanketing cars and streets like snow. Los Angeles has reportedly experienced the hottest summer to date as well as the largest fire to date. An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook Mexico resulting in at least 90 deaths.
Here in the Midwest, more specifically, southwest North Dakota, we’ve been fortunate enough to have not experienced any of these terrifying natural disasters.
However, as of late, there’s been a haze. On Sunday, Sept. 10, winds seem to have shifted westwardly, covering the area in a thick cloak of smoke, and you could smell it too. Again this past Tuesday and Wednesday, there was both a dense fog warning and a dense smoke warning for eastern Montana and western North Dakota issued by the National Weather Service.
Areas across Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho and Wyoming have been effected by the blazing fires, where citizens have actually been reportedly choking on harmful levels of smoke, while shrouded in a cloudy haze, much like we’ve seen here in Bowman County. However, a weather system is expected to bring rain to these smoldering areas later on this week, but that doesn’t mean the fires won’t continue to burn through he dry wooded areas.
We’re expecting another day or two of warm conditions that could keep the fires a little bit active, particularly across the Northwest and the Rockies, and also some breezy conditions in Montana that are pushing fires around,” said Ed Delgado, the national program manager for predictive services at the National Interagency Fire Center.
More than 1.6 million acres have been taken by the 62 large fires burning across nine Western states. For residents of California, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Montana and North Dakota, the worst threat from these fires is poor air quality lingering in the areas that may take up to a week to disperse. Moderate air quality is found in Northern California, Central Oregon and Southeastern Washington, while more hazardous air quality is located throughout North-Central Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota. The National Weather Service is advising those who reside in hazardous areas, such as Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota, to avoid all physical activity outdoors, as this can and will cause severe respiratory-related illness.
Experts in the field of air quality have confirmed that, while not everybody has the same sensitivity to wildfires and their smoke, if you can avoid breathing it in, you’ll be in much better shape. Fine particles that are produced when wood and other organic materials burn can penetrate deep into your lungs and can cause a wide range of health problems from itchy eyes, to asthma, all the way down to chronic heart and lung diseases.
Thankfully, there haven’t been any crazy fires in this region of North Dakota, but that doesn’t mean that the firefighters in the area aren’t prepared for the worst. As we ease into cooler mornings signaling the coming of fall and winter, we can let out a sigh of relief as fire season, for a good majority, comes to a close.