If you noticed a hazier skyline in Rochester on Tuesday, you can chalk it up to large amounts of smoke riding on the jet stream south from the Canadian border.

Wildfires in Ontario and Manitoba have caused heavy smoke that's created unhealthy air quality conditions for everyone in Northern Minnesota and has made its way to Southeast Minnesota where the conditions are less dangerous, but still can impact some people.

Here's what you need to know about how the air quality alert issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for Southeast Minnesota.

How long the alert is in effect

The MPCA issued the alert on Monday, July 19, and it has been in effect since Tuesday, July 20. The alert was extended to 6 a.m. Thursday, July 22.

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Smoke arrived in southcentral and southeastern Minnesota Tuesday afternoon. By Wednesday evening, the smoke levels are expected to improve, and by Thursday morning, the levels are expected to return to safe levels.

A red sunset is seen on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, near Saint Mary’s Park in Rochester. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for northern, central, and southeast Minnesota, effective Tuesday, July 20 through Thursday, July 22, at 6 a.m. Heavy smoke from wildfires located north of the Canadian border has caused hazy skies throughout our region. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
A red sunset is seen on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, near Saint Mary’s Park in Rochester. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for northern, central, and southeast Minnesota, effective Tuesday, July 20 through Thursday, July 22, at 6 a.m. Heavy smoke from wildfires located north of the Canadian border has caused hazy skies throughout our region. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Who's affected in our area?

While the fine particle levels in Northern Minnesota are unhealthy for all people, the particle levels in Southeast Minnesota are expected to be in the "oange" level.

That means the levels are unhealthy for sensitive groups of people. Those most likely to be affected include:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • People who have heart disease or high blood pressure.
  • Children and older adults.
  • People of all ages who are doing extended or heavy, physical activity like playing sports or working outdoors.

Health effects

The air pollution levels can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease as well as lung diseases like asthma and COPD, according to the MPCA.

People with these conditions may experience symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue

People experiencing these symptoms are advised to use their inhalers or contact their health care provider.

How to take precautions

While all people should be cautious when the air quality is this unhealthy, these are a few other things the MPCA advises:

  • Take it easy and listen to your body.
  • Limit, change or postpone physical activity.
  • If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires.
  • If you have asthma or other breathing conditions, make sure you have your relief/rescue inhaler with you.
  • People with asthma should review and follow the guidance in their written asthma action plan. (Make an appointment to see your health provider if you don’t have an asthma action plan.)