Smoke causes unhealthy conditions for everyone

(ABC 6 News) – A thick blanket of smoke rolled into southeast Minnesota Wednesday night.

The smoke created air quality considered unhealthy by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. An air quality alert remains in place until 6 a.m. on June 16 for a large region of central and southern Minnesota.

Wednesday evening, the air quality moved into the red zone on the MPCA’s Air Quality Index. An air quality alert is issued when measured or forecasted air quality conditions are greater than 101 on the index. By 9 p.m. Wednesday, much of the ABC 6 News viewing area had an AQI level at 186.

At that level, the air is considered unhealthy for everyone who is outdoors, not just those in sensitive groups. The change in the conditions was noticeable to people outside, including those playing volleyball outside Wildwood Sports Bar and Grill.

“It’s a little different for sure. You definitely notice the air is much dirtier and hazier,” Volleyball player Lexi Nelson said.

According to the MPCA, anyone spending time outside during these conditions can experience irritated eyes, nose and throat. Coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath can also be expected. For people with heart or lung disease, the air quality at this level can worsen those existing conditions.

The Twin Cities set a new daily air quality index record Wednesday as smoke from the Canadian wildfires drifted into Minnesota.  As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, the Twin Cities saw a 24-hour average AQI of 170, shattering the previous record of 130, according to our sister station, KSTP in Minneapolis. The AQI steadily rose throughout the day, peaking at 261 around 7 p.m. The Environmental Protection Agency considers an AQI above 200 “very unhealthy” for all people.

This is the 15th air quality alert for the season across the state and the 13th for the Twin Cities metro. Both of those are above the agency’s initial MPCA forecast of three to five alerts for the entire summer. The record number of alerts happened in 2021, when 20 alerts were issued.

Although air quality is expected to get better for northern Minnesota on Thursday, the MPCA says there will still be smoke across southern parts of the state throughout Thursday before it dissipates Friday morning. The current air quality alert will remain in place until 6 a.m. Friday morning for a large region of central and southern Minnesota.