Warm, sunny weather combined with drifting smoke from distant wildfires has led to an air quality alert for part of Minnesota.
The Pollution Control Agency says the alert from noon until 8 p.m. Thursday includes the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Hinckley, and Mille Lacs Lake.
After sundown the ozone level should drop but there will still be particles in the air from fires burning in Canada and the northwestern U.S., the agency says.
What the alert means
When you see orange on the air quality map (which you can check anytime here) that means the air could be unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Those are any people who sometimes have trouble breathing – because of asthma, bronchitis, COPD, or any other condition. They should take it easy in the afternoon and try to stay inside, the experts say.
Also, people who do hard work outdoors might want to cut back or postpone that work.
Staying away from busy roads or open fires will help. And if you use an inhaler, be extra sure to carry it with you.
How you can help
We can't suddenly make the air quality better, but there are ways to avoid making it worse, the Pollution Control Agency says.
Avoid driving if you can. If you are on the road and you need gas, you can help the air by filling up in the morning or at night – not in the afternoon.
Also, this is a good excuse to not use a gas powered lawnmower or other yard machine. And Thursday's not a good day to use an outdoor fireplace.
Even apart from the air quality, it'll be too hot for a fire. Forecasters say temperatures will stay unusually warm for mid-September through the end of the week.
The heat adds to the lousy air quality by keeping ozone closer to the ground, where we're breathing.
Thursday's highs around Minnesota will be in the 80s and lower 90s, the National Weather Service says.