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Wildfire Smoke Update
for
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 8:30 AM

Satellite Photos | Locations and Smoke Conditions


Today's Report and Forecast Today's Summary
The Lolo Creek Complex, just west of Lolo, MT, along Highway 12, made impressive gains yesterday, and is now up to an estimated 5,000 acres in just over 24 hours. Because the fire grew quicker than expected, it also produced more smoke than expected, and that smoke caused air quality impacts yesterday evening and continue this morning. Hourly particulate concentrations reached levels that were UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS in Missoula yesterday afternoon before smoke lightened up in the valley. Air quality remained GOOD overnight, but is now climbing to MODERATE levels this morning. Cumulative particulate concentrations, when averaged over the last 24 hours, are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. Downwind, smoke became visible in the northern sky over Helena late yesterday afternoon. It appeared as though the smoke would miss the valley, but as the sun went down, so too did the smoke. It settled into the north valley and then spread to fill the entire valley and air quality became MODERATE for four hours overnight. Hourly concentrations have since become GOOD, but cumulative concentrations are at MODERATE levels when averaged over the last 24 and 8 hours. Farther downwind, Great Falls saw very similar conditions, where air quality was worst overnight. Eight and 24 hour concentrations are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS. These are all observed smoke impacts from the Lolo Creek Complex. Across southern Montana, the Eureka and Miner Paradise Complex also produced heavy smoke that traveled along the southern border of the state. Fortunately, this smoke was able to rise high enough in the atmosphere so as to avoid major air quality impacts at the ground downwind. The latest observed air quality is GOOD in West Yellowstone this morning, as well as Billings, Birney, and Broadus. Ground-level smoke is visible on satellite images in the far southern Bitterroot Valley, parts of far southwestern Montana including the town of Dillon, as well as east of Missoula where Highway 200 follows near the Blackfoot River.

Today’s weather will be hot and dry again, with breezy afternoon winds. Like yesterday, these are great weather conditions for high fire activity and thus high smoke production. Air quality should slowly start to improve in Helena, Great Falls, and Lewistown throughout the morning and early afternoon. Warm air and wind will help to move smoke out of the areas before the next round of smoke returns this evening. Cumulative particulate concentrations may stay at levels that are UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS in Helena and Great Falls, but hour-by-hour throughout the afternoon, air quality should be generally GOOD to MODERATE. In Missoula, smoke is already starting to fill the valley. Lolo and the northern Bitterroot Valley will continue to see heavy smoke at times throughout the day as well. Smoke conditions can change rapidly so near to fires, so air quality is expected to be highly variable throughout the entire day. Air quality may become GOOD at times today, when winds blow smoke directly east and out of the Missoula area, but it may also become UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS to UNHEALTHY on the south side of town. When conditions change so quickly, please remember to use the VISIBILITY GUIDELINES. In the southern half of the Bitterroot Valley, air quality will be generally GOOD to MODERATE throughout the day. Air quality may become MODERATE in West Yellowstone this afternoon. The northern half of the state, as well as most of far eastern plains should remain GOOD today.
There will be another update later this afternoon with an update on fire activity, smoke production, air quality, and a full forecast.
Residents near active fires and under plumes aloft need to remain aware of current conditions and use the visibility guidelines to guide their activity decisions as the situation changes.

Kristen Martin
State Air Quality Meteorologist
Air Resource Management Bureau
Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Phone: (406) 444-0283
Email: kmartin@mt.gov




This is the visible satellite image from 7:00 last night. You can see the smoke plumes that traveled across the state. Smoke form the Lolo Creek Complex settled into the valleys overnight from Missoula and as far east as Lewistown. 

This is the visible satellite image from 7:00 last night. You can see the smoke plumes that traveled across the state. Smoke form the Lolo Creek Complex settled into the valleys overnight from Missoula and as far east as Lewistown.


 
This is the visible satellite image from 7:45 this morning. You can see the wide swath of smoke that is high in the atmosphere over eastern Montana. We can also see that there is ground-level smoke in parts of Beaverhead County, the Missoula/northern Bitterroot area, north of the Garnet Mountain Range, into the Helena Valley, and even into White Sulphur Springs.

This is the visible satellite image from 7:45 this morning. You can see the wide swath of smoke that is high in the atmosphere over eastern Montana. We can also see that there is ground-level smoke in parts of Beaverhead County, the Missoula/northern Bitterroot area, north of the Garnet Mountain Range, into the Helena Valley, and even into White Sulphur Springs.


This webcam in Stevensville in the Bitterroot Valley shows the smoke that is coming into the northern part of the valley.

This webcam in Stevensville in the Bitterroot Valley shows the smoke that is coming into the northern part of the valley.

Red indicates hot spot detected. Grey represents smoke seen by satellite. Fire size is exaggerated for visibility at this scale. To identify individual fires on graphic above go here: http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/lg_fire2.php 

This webcam at the Gates of the Mountains overlooks the Helena area and you can clearly see the smoke that has settled into the valley.

This webcam at the Gates of the Mountains overlooks the Helena area and you can clearly see the smoke that has settled into the valley.

The smoke report below compares particulate levels where information is available to MDEQ’s Health Effects Categories. Real time particulate information is currently available in most of the larger urban areas from several different sources including: DEQ run PM-10 BAMS and PM2.5 BAMS, NWS ASOS visibility monitors, and USFS remote access Nephelometers and BAMS. These advisories represent conditions between midnight and 8 AM and may change substantially throughout the day.

Locations and severity of forest fire smoke reports since midnight of the date above at reporting stations.
Health Effects Categories City
  Hazardous  
  Very Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy  
  Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups  Missoula B24
Great Falls B24,B8
  Moderate

 Helena B24, B8
Lewistown B8
 

  Good

 Libby
Flathead Valley
Hamilton
Frenchtown
Seeley Lake
Butte
Bozeman
West Yellowstone
Malta
Sidney
Billings
Birney
Broadus
 

B1(x) One-hour BAM value (number of values)
B8(x) Eight-hour average BAM
B24 24 hour  average BAM value
Vis(x) Visibility value (number of hours)
Vis(am/pm) Visibility value from twice/day reporting stations

Local impacts in areas immediately adjacent to active fires are expected to exceed some or all of the advisory levels.  DEQ recommends the use of local visibility guidelines to evaluate possible health risks and make informed activity decisions.