photo by Peter Christian
UPDATEsmoky sky


UPDATE-- 9:00 a.m. Sunday, January 15. The Stage Two Air Pollution Warning has been continued by the Missoula City County Health Department.

As of 9:00 a.m. Saturday, the Missoula City-County Health Department has declared a Stage Two Air Pollution Alert.

Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield said on Saturday morning that  a high pressure ridge has established itself over the Missoula valley, which is trapping all the pollutants released from cars, fireplaces and wood stoves.

“The pollution in the valley is not able to move out, so we just keep adding in to what is already there,” Coefield said. “We have a really cold pool of air that’s trapped on the valley floor, and so smoke from wood stoves and cars is just accumulating day by day. The longer this inversion lasts, the more scummy the air will get.”

Coefield said conditions deteriorated rapidly on Friday to the point where a Stage One Alert was issued.

“We’ve seen that accumulation of pollutants through the night and into Saturday morning, and it has worsened to the point where we now have declared a Stage Two Air Pollution Warning,” she said. “During a Stage Two Warning, people cannot have any visible emissions from their solid fuel burning devices, unless they have a sole-source heating permit, and there are only five of those in Missoula. That means people with fireplaces and wood stoves are not allowed to have any visible smoke coming from their chimneys. We also urge that people only drive when necessary, but there are no actual restrictions on driving during a Stage Two Warning.”

Coefield said the next step would be a Stage Three Emergency, but that has not been called since she has been at the health department.

She said a warm moist weather system is due to move into the area by Monday and Tuesday, which should help scour out the inversion and improve air quality.

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