Update: Smoke From MN Wild Fire Disperses

IEPA issues air pollution alert for today due to particulate matter from smoke.

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 Pagami Creek Fire was at about 100,000 acres as of this morning, according to the National Weather Service, Duluth, MN office.

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. 

The McHenry County Health Department has issued precautions for how to deal with smoke.

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.

Eric Hochstein September 13, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Definitely smelling and seeing it in eastern end of Barrington.
Karin Weidman September 13, 2011 at 06:35 PM
It's pretty strong in Grayslake, my eyes are burning a bit. Don't want to close the windows, but may have to.
Resident Observer September 13, 2011 at 06:39 PM
We can smell it in Lake Zurich. In fact, there is a noticeable haze over the lake.
Brad Faxton September 13, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Whowa! I'm in Waukegan and can smell it too.
Windy City September 13, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Yep, I was just outside and wondered where that smokey smell was coming from......nasty!
Matt September 13, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Foggy and smoky here in Arlington Heights
pamela September 13, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Lake Forest-- thought the leaf burning had started early!
Tara Grimes September 13, 2011 at 07:07 PM
I can definitely smell it here in Huntley! A slight haze in the air as well!
Stephanie Price September 13, 2011 at 07:10 PM
Thank you, Claudia, for the explanation. I was wondering why it is so hazy out today.
Lisa N. September 13, 2011 at 07:13 PM
It's definitely noticeable here in Lake in the Hills.
Marcy Cronin September 13, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Crystal Lake has been noticing it since 11 o'clock this morning - glad to know what it is...thank you for being on top of things!
Jill Baum Cherba September 13, 2011 at 07:25 PM
I can see and smell it in Deerfield, it's nauseating.
Kathy Ward Robar September 13, 2011 at 07:27 PM
ditto here in Inverness.
Claudia Lenart (Editor) September 13, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Check out this satellite image of smoke from NOAA. http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/ml/land/currenthms.jpg WGN weatherman Tom Skilling, explains on Twitter that the map also shows smoke from a Rockies fire. It is very widespread.
Tim Kane September 13, 2011 at 07:33 PM
I thought there was a house on fire in my neighborhood.
Kasie September 13, 2011 at 08:27 PM
We noticed it at lunchtime in Elgin. I thought it might be the start of those controlled burns in the prairies. Glad to find out what's causing the smell.
T Yakimisky September 13, 2011 at 08:27 PM
Smelling it in Algonquin all day.
TOM AKA RAMBO-911 MINISTRY September 13, 2011 at 08:28 PM
Yup it's hazy and we can smell it here by the IL/Wi stateline, at first I thought there was a fire close by, the smell is that strong!
DD September 13, 2011 at 08:28 PM
I too, thought it was a house fire. Still quite hazy and smelly here in Palatine.
Iris Russell September 13, 2011 at 08:42 PM
Most certainly here in Lake in the Hills. I breathe by way of a tracheotomy and felt slight burning in my lungs when I walked the dog. Glad to know what it is. The haze over the neighborhood is a bit eerie.
Sylvia Mallon September 13, 2011 at 09:14 PM
We can smell it here in Niles and see the haze too!
Louise September 13, 2011 at 09:18 PM
I thought it was our annual "leaf burning friends" making me nauseus and head-achey. It's hard to believe we'd be this affected 2 full states away! A beautiful day being spoiled with this haze, not to mention feeling sorry for the folks up there. Thanks, Patch, for keeping us informed!
Carol September 13, 2011 at 09:25 PM
Hazy skies and smoke smell in Huntley, Hampshire, Elgin and Algonquin. No matter where I went today, I smelled it. I thought this was a weird effect of having so much mold in the air. carol
Conscious Chicago September 13, 2011 at 09:39 PM
What can you do to reduce breathing discomfort and other smoke related reactions? http://www.consciouschicago.com/CONSCIOUS_NEWS.php
Maura September 14, 2011 at 12:08 AM
We smell it here in Hampshire too. I thought someone was burning yard waste but it has a bit of a plastic smell to it.
Linda September 14, 2011 at 02:14 AM
We could smell it in Elgin and at my job in Algonquin. It smelled like burning rubber or plastic. Surprised a forrest fire would have such a smell. Also left a haze in the air.
Cindy M. Brito September 14, 2011 at 05:10 AM
We live in Rolling Meadows right near the Arlington Park Race Track, and It's been foggy and hazy and smoky all day. My throat has been sore all day, and I have a nasty headache. I hope everybody is ok, and get checked out if you have asthma!
Wanda September 16, 2011 at 11:48 PM
Are any homes affected by this fire?
Claudia Lenart (Editor) September 17, 2011 at 02:18 PM
Only one vacant cabin has burned according to an update this morning in the Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904491704576575090617224126.html


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