Winds and low humidity created ideal conditions late yesterday afternoon and evening for fires in Montana and Idaho to really burn, and produce a ton of smoke. The satellite image below is from 6:45 yesterday evening, and it’s eerily impressive how much smoke there is across Idaho and Montana, and just how much smoke is coming from those fires in eastern Idaho, just across the border. Smoke was very heavy last night and air quality was poor in a lot of places. Visibility was less than ten miles in most places, as well. The cold front is currently pushing its way across the state, and luckily for the smoky western half of the state, the cold front has passed through there. Air quality has improved in some of the hardest-hit areas as atmospheric winds start to push the smoke east and southeast. Hamilton and the entire Bitterroot Valley had very high particulate concentrations late last night, but after midnight, smoke started to clear out. The latest one-hour average is MODERATE, but that is about half of what it was a few hours ago. Long-term smoke exposures are still UNHEALTHY, but as smoke continues to clear out today there, barring another influx of smoke from the west, those numbers will start to go down. The webcam below shows the visibility in Hamilton this morning, which is leaps and bounds better than it was last night. Similar conditions are true for other non-reporting locations in southwestern Montana, including most of Beaverhead and Madison Counties. Smoke is also starting to clear out of there, slowly but surely. Air quality has improved to GOOD in places like Missoula, Seeley Lake, and Helena. Unfortunately, as locations in western Montana improve this morning, that means that places to the east are seeing some of that smoke now, though not as concentrated. Long-term smoke exposure in Billings and Sidney is up to MODERATE now, and the sky is generally hazy, especially in far eastern and southeastern Montana. This, too, should change throughout the day as the cold front makes it all the way across the state. Unfortunately, Red Flag Warnings are all over Montana, east of the Divide, effective through tonight. We are expecting some very strong winds today, which will help to blow this smoke out of the region, but may fan fires to the point of heavy smoke production again. Another update will come this afternoon with the most current smoke conditions, fire activity, and a forecast.
Please see "Today's Report and Forecast" (left). Another air quality update and forecast will come this afternoon.