Air quality alert for southern Minnesota extended through 11 p.m. Monday

Heavy smoke will linger across southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities

Wildfire smoke
The sunset is seen through a layer of thick wildfire smoke over Lakewood Cemetery near Lake Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Updated: May 13, 11:50 a.m. | Posted: May 12, 2 p.m.

Smoke from Canadian wildfires continued to create hazy conditions across Minnesota on Monday morning. An air quality alert is now in effect for the southern half of the state through 11 p.m.

Authorities are urging people sensitive to air quality — especially those with lung and heart conditions — to use caution until conditions improve later in the day.

“Smoke will slowly drift to the south throughout the day and air quality will begin improving from north to south within the alert area,” according to a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency update midday Monday. “Air quality should improve across the Twin Cities metro during the afternoon and the rest of southern Minnesota can expect improving air quality by the end of the day.”

The MPCA’s air quality observations map showed conditions in the red category — a level considered unhealthy for everyone — across most of southern Minnesota just before noon Monday.

Conditions were better for most of central and northern Minnesota, where an earlier air quality alert was canceled Monday morning.

The agency said the smoke is a result of numerous large Canadian fires burning in northeastern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

A smoky skyline
Hazy conditions looking toward downtown St. Paul after the wildfire smoke moved in Sunday evening.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Woody Unruh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said smoke from Canadian wildfires started moving across Minnesota on Sunday morning behind a cold front.

“The atmosphere is basically mixing down smoke from aloft and bringing that down to the surface,” Unruh said. “Because of that, we’re now leading to some poor air quality as that smoke is starting to come down.”

The air quality alert through 11 p.m. Monday includes the Twin Cities metro, Albert Lea, Marshall, Worthington, Rochester, Winona and Mankato, and the tribal nations of Upper Sioux and Prairie Island.

While sensitive groups, such as people with lung disease (including asthma), heart disease, children and older adults, may be the most impacted, the National Weather Service advises everyone to limit prolonged or heavy exertion and time spent outdoors.

The MPCA said Monday morning that good air quality is expected across the state on Tuesday and through most of the rest of the week.

But the agency said that “a strong low pressure is forecast to track eastward over southern Canada late Friday and Saturday, and we’ll need to keep an eye out for another the possibility of more wildfire smoke over the weekend.”

MPR News meteorologist Sven Sundgaard contributed to this report.

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