FARGO — The smoky air blanketing the Fargo-Moorhead area and surrounding region in recent days isn't going away anytime soon, as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Friday, July 30, extended its air quality alert for all of Minnesota until noon on Tuesday, Aug. 3.
Describing the smoke as an "unprecedented significant air quality event," the agency said during the ongoing air quality alert fine particle levels are expected to reach the "purple" category across north central and south central Minnesota. The purple category is a level considered to be very unhealthy for everyone.
Fine particle levels are expected to be in the "red" category across northern, central and southeast Minnesota, an area that includes Moorhead, Detroit Lakes, and East Grand Forks. The red category is a level considered to be unhealthy for everyone.
Also on Friday, the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality advised the public to take precautions due to unhealthy levels of wildfire smoke circulating throughout the state.
The smoky skies in North Dakota and Minnesota are due to wildfires in Canada.
North Dakota health officials said the air quality index across the state has been ranging from moderate (yellow) to unhealthy (red).
Health officials advise that people can protect their health by limiting exposure to the smoke in a number of ways, including:
- Staying inside with windows and doors closed until smoke levels subside
- Reducing outside activities
- Setting air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate to prevent outside air from moving inside
For the second evening in a row, smoky conditions prompted the cancelation of the Trollwood Performing Arts School's performance of "Rogers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," at the Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead.
Organizers said tickets for the show will be refunded in full.
Anyone who would like to attend the show during the other remaining performances was invited to purchase tickets by visiting www.Trollwood.org, or by calling the Box Office at 218-477-6502, or by visiting the Box Office at Bluestem Center for the Arts.
Smoky conditions Friday also prompted several outdoor pools in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area to close.
The Davies Recreational Pool, Southwest Recreation Pool, Roger G. Gress Northside Pool, Island Park and Madison Pool & Splash pad closed their afternoon sessions, the Fargo Park District announced on its website.
The West Fargo Park District closed the Veteran's Pool on Friday and will provide updates on its website.
Moorhead Parks and Recreation announced via a Facebook post that all Moorhead wading pools were closed Friday due to poor air quality and that hours were limited Friday at the Moorhead Municipal Swimming Pool.
To check the air quality index for a given state or zip code, visit: www.AirNow.gov.
StormTracker meteorologist Jared Piepenburg said the smoky conditions are largely due to wind patterns and he said winds from the north Saturday and Sunday will likely push additional smoke down from Canada.
He added there's also a possibility that the dry, dense air the region has been experiencing in recent days might be a factor in why smoky air is staying close to the ground.