No, those aren’t clouds in the sky, its wildfire smoke, and lots of it.

Missoula City County Health Department Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield told KGVO News on Tuesday morning that air quality in the Missoula valley will begin to deteriorate throughout the week.

“We have a lot of smoke over the region from fires that are burning particularly up in Washington and Canada,” said Coefield. “Of course even our own fires have still been kind of slowly moving along generating a little bit of smoke and it is currently just blanketing our whole area making the sky an ugly, gray color. There's not a cloud up there; that is entirely smoke.”

Coefield could only speculate on what will occur when smoke from fires in the west descend into the Missoula valley.

“As to what happens with the plumes from the fires that are pointed at us, that is a little unknowable,” she said. “Right now, there are some fires in Washington that are going to be sending smoke our direction today with northwesterly transport winds. Some of those fires are pretty darn active already today. So it's kind of a wait and see on how bad it might get. But for now we can expect haze and overhead smoke really all day.”

As far as categories go, Coefield said it starts at Unhealthy.

“We're actually currently seeing ‘Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups’ across the county. “It was it was pretty murky starting about mid morning today and it's been getting a little bit worse as the day has gone on, and I do expect that trend to continue. We might hit Unhealthy air quality. I'm not entirely sure whether that will happen or not. I think it could go either way. But it is certainly not clean air by any means.”

Coefield said it’s very important to listen to your body and act quickly to get inside away from smoke if you begin to feel unwell.

“Pay attention to how you're feeling, and honor how you're feeling because smoke is bad for you and is likely to make you feel kind of kind of yucky,” she said. “And if you have an underlying health condition, it's more dangerous for you. So it's a great idea if you can to stay inside in a place with filtered air.”

As of Tuesday afternoon air quality in Missoula was Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.

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