As happy as Missoulians were to see the rain showers in western Montana, health department officials are saying the smoke problems will persist till further notice.

“Right now, we have so much overhead smoke coming in from Washington, Canada and we probably have some coming in from possibly Oregon and California,” said Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield. “We have a whole mass of smoke just rotating over the region. It looks extra bad today because in addition to all that smoke, we also have heavy cloud cover so there’s hardly any light, and we can’t see the mountains because the smoke is so thick, so it’s generally a miserable day.”

Coefield said the statewide air quality alert in bringing unhealthy conditions to most of Missoula County.

“The folks with heart of lung disease are more likely to experience problems,” she said. “You’ll see an increase in the severity of asthma symptoms and people with COPD are more likely to experience decreased lung functions.”

Coefield said the rain in Missoula might not cause the valley to experience a clear sky free of smoke.

“You would hope that with the weather system we are seeing today that it would scour the valley clear, but the problem is that we just have so much smoke overhead,” she said. “When you look at what the upper level winds are going to be doing, they’re coming from the southwest for awhile bringing smoke from that direction to us, and then they’re going to switch to the northeast and they’ll bring that smoke right back to us.”

Coefield said for the time being, hazy conditions will dominate the area.

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