Canadian Wildfires Lead to Air Quality Alerts for Nebraska
Both the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Nebraska Department of Energy and the Environment (NDEE) issued a statewide smoke advisory on Thursday, May 18, 2023. As of press time, the alert is scheduled to run until midday Friday, May 19.
Air quality alerts hav been issued for both Jefferson and Gage Counties.
The source is smoke associated with wildfires in Canada may affect the air quality in Nebraska. Visibility may be affected in areas with heavier smoke. A statement issued early yesterday by the U.S. National Weather Service said, “A LOT of smoke is moving southward from large wildfires in Canada. Unhealthy levels of smoke are being observed in the Dakotas. Models show this smoke moving into Nebraska later today into tonight.”
Alberta, Canada, currently reports nine active wildfires burning throughout the province. According to Alberta’s official website, “Hot, dry conditions continue in most areas of the province resulting in numerous wildfires. A provincial state of emergency has been declared.”
DHHS and NDEE uses a color-coded alert system to inform the public of the severity of air quality, “An advisory of possible Moderate to Unhealthy AQI (yellow/orange/red) impacts may occur statewide from Thursday, May 18, through midday Friday, May 19, 2023.
Moderate AQI (yellow)
During Moderate AQI (Yellow category) conditions, those who are unusually sensitive to particle pollution may experience health effects. When conditions rise to the yellow category, those who are unusually sensitive are advised to consider shortening outdoor activities and reducing the intensity of these activities. Symptoms such as coughing, or shortness of breath are signs to take it easier.
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups AQI (orange)
During Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups AQI (Orange category) conditions, members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. Sensitive groups include people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children. When conditions rise to the orange category, sensitive groups are advised to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion and avoid intense outdoor activities.
Unhealthy AQI (red)
During Unhealthy AQI (Red category) conditions, some members of the general public may experience health effects and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. Sensitive groups include people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children. When conditions rise to the red category, sensitive groups are advised to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and consider moving activities indoors or rescheduling.
Advisories are issued for areas of anticipated impact by notifying the media, and local health departments, posting information on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy’s (NDEE) webpages, and social media sites. These advisories provide information to the public on the anticipated impacts, air quality, and health resources to help citizens protect their health and minimize exposure to smoke.
States monitor smoke levels and weather conditions to determine when impacts on air quality are anticipated. Advisories are based on data from the National Weather Service (NWS), smoke plume modeling, and ambient air quality monitors located in Omaha, Bellevue, Lincoln, Beatrice, Grand Island, and Scottsbluff.
In additon to Jefferson and Gage counties, air quality alerts have been issued for: Antelope; Boone; Burt; Butler; Cass; Cedar; Colfax; Cuming; Dodge; Douglas; Johnson; Knox; Lancaster; Madison; Nemaha; Otoe; Pawnee; Pierce; Platte; Richardson; Saline; Sarpy; Saunders; Seward; Stanton; Thurston; Washington; Wayne; Adams; Buffalo; Clay; Dawson; Fillmore; Franklin; Furnas; Gosper; Greeley; Hall; Hamilton; Harlan; Howard; Kearney; Merrick; Nance; Nuckolls; Phelps; Polk; Sherman; Thayer; Valley; Webster; York; Dakota; Dixon; Banner; Box Butte; Cheyenne; Dawes; Kimball; Morrill; North Sioux; Scotts Bluff; South Sioux; Arthur; Blaine; Boyd; Brown; Chase; Custer; Deuel; Eastern Cherry; Frontier; Garden; Garfield; Grant; Hayes; Holt; Hooker; Keith; Keya Paha; Lincoln; Logan; Loup; McPherson; Perkins; Rock; Sheridan; Thomas; Western Cherry; Wheeler; Dundy; Hitchcock; Red Willow.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) is used nationally and is available in real-time for Nebraska by visiting https://www.airnow.gov.