Wildfire smoke triggers air quality alert in Minnesota

An air quality alert has been issued for northern Minnesota due to wildfire smoke coming from Canada. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) on Monday, May 15, issued an air quality alert for northern Minnesota, with the alert going into effect from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16. 

The alert area includes the northern half of Minnesota, including Ely, International Falls, Roseau, Duluth, Brainerd and Moorhead, and the tribal nations of Grand Portage, Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, Red Lake, and Mille Lacs. 

The MPCA says fine particle levels are expected to reach the orange air quality index category, which is a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, meaning sensitive groups should avoid prolonged time outdoors.

The MPCA says a band of smoke from wildfires in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada, is moving east across Ontario. A cold front will move south overnight, pulling the smoke south toward Minnesota. Sinking air behind the front will bring this smoke to the surface. 

Smoke is expected to cross into northern Minnesota around 4 a.m. Tuesday. Northerly winds will then push the smoke as far south as Hinckley and Alexandria by Tuesday afternoon. 

Air quality should improve in northeastern Minnesota by Tuesday afternoon, but it may linger across northwestern Minnesota through Tuesday. 

Smoke billows from a still-smouldering fire outside of Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada, on May 8, 2023. - Canada struggled on Monday to control wildfires that have forced thousands to flee, halted oil production and threaten to raze towns, with the w