Smoke hangs heavy over western Montana, prompts air quality alerts
The air quality in Hamilton has reached “very unhealthy” levels while Missoula remains listed as “unhealthy,” though a change in weather patterns could reveal the western Montana sky, at least temporarily.
The National Weather Service in Missoula issued a flash flood warning for Tuesday and Wednesday for areas of the Bitterroott Valley and Idaho, and a moderate risk of severe weather as a real chance for rain appears possible.
“There are some clouds and rain showers over Washington and Oregon this morning, which could help slow these smoke makers,” said Sarah Coefield, the air quality specialist for Missoula County. “The high pressure ridge should flatten by Wednesday, which will allow better air movement and hopefully give a shot at cleaner air.”
The heavy smoke has forced Missoula County Public Schools to move its activities indoors, as have schools in Lolo and Hamilton.
“Starting today and for the foreseeable future we'll be inside for our practices and will likely be canceling or outdoor contests,” said Lolo Schools Superintendent Dale Olinger.
The current air quality is akin to the summer of 2017 when nearly all of western Montana was held under a thick blanket of smoke for weeks on end.
Currently, Thomson Falls, Libby and Frenchtown are listed as having unhealthy air quality while Kalispell and Seeley Lake are listed as unhealthy for sensitive groups.
“It gets worse as you go farther south. Conditions are currently Very Unhealthy in Hamilton,” said Coefield. “If you’re in the mood for a road trip, the nearest Good air is east of Billings.”