Update 10:10 a.m., Sept 14
Smoke from the northern Minnesota wild fire is dispersing and there should not be a smoke issue today, said Ed Fenelon, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, Chicago office.
“Yesterday we saw stiff northwest winds and a low-level, cold-air advection,” Fenelon said. He explained that the system that brought colder weather today, was responsible for yesterday’s smoky air.
“The colder air is more dense so it sinks and you get a downward transport of air. That’s what helped bring some of the smoke,” he said.
Fenelon said today’s winds are more northerly and likely to shift the smoke to the west of the Chicago area.
He noted that the amount of smoke that continues to be created by the fire at Pagami Creek in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness could be a factor in whether or not it travels here.
Although the smoke is dissipating, Northern Illinois continues to experience elevated levels of particulate matter from the smoke. This has prompted The Partners for Clean Air and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to issue an Air Pollution Action Day alert for the Chicago Metropolitan area for today.
The impacted area includes Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties in Illinois. This is the fifth Air Pollution Action Day for 2011.
Elevated levels of fine particulate matter pose health risks to sensitive populations, especially individuals with respiratory or pulmonary disorders as well as active children and adults.
The Boundary Waters fire is the largest Minnesota fire since 1918, according to the Duluth News Tribune. Emergency management officials in Minnesota report that the colder temperatures will make it more difficult for the fire to spread. Scattered thunderstorms on Tuesday afternoon may have helped slow the fire as well.
Update 3:46 p.m., Sept 13
The air quality in parts of McHenry County could remain unhealthy for the next couple of days, according to a news release issued by the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency and the McHenry County Department of Health.
McHenry County recommends that children, the elderly, individuals with respiratory and cardiac problems, or anyone engaged in strenuous and/or outdoor activity remain indoors or use caution.
David Christensen of the McHenry County Emergency Management Agency said he contacted the National Weather Service and was told the the fire could be increasing in size over the next few days. North-northwest winds would continue to blow smoke into northern Illinois.
Update, 2:58 p.m., Sept. 13
The National Weather Service (NWS) Chicago has issued a special weather statement due to smoke from a Minnesota forest fire. According to NWS, the smoke traveled more than 400 miles due to a combination of sinking air and northerly winds.
NWS warns the smoke will persist through the afternoon and into the evening hours. The Lake County Illinois Emergency Manager reports that smoke is prevalent enough to cause people to experience difficulty breathing and burning eyes. People with respiratory problems should use caution.
The fire started Aug. 18 with a lightning strike 20 miles from Ely then smoldered for over a week before flaring to life, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.
The fire has spread to cover 60,000 acres in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Called the Pagami Creek Fire, it has spread so rapidly that residents of a small Minnesota town of Isabella were preparing to evacuate on Tuesday.
12:23 p.m., Sept. 13
Smell something burning?
If so, the cause of the smoke and burning smell in northern Illinois is due to a huge forest fire in Minnesota. The smoke is getting into the main airstream and bringing the smoke into our area, according to a City of McHenry alert issued at 11:58 a.m. today, Sept. 13.
The forest fire is in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Journal Sentinel reported that the northwest winds sent ash and smoke into the area reducing visibility in Wisconsin.
The National Weather Service in Wisconsin said some people reported trouble breathing. The weather service predicted air quality in Wisconsin would remain unhealthy in some parts for days.
Residents of McHenry County and western Lake County are reporting smoke in their neighborhoods.