Weather Forecast


MPCA: Air pollution health alert issued for western Minnesota

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has issued an air pollution health alert for western Minnesota effective from noon on Thursday, March 6 through noon on Friday, March 7.  Air quality monitors indicate that fine particle pollution is increasing across the central plain states, extending from Oklahoma City to Fargo, and including air monitors located in Marshall, Fargo and Sioux Falls. A strong temperature inversion, snow melt, and morning fog are trapping fine particle pollution near the surface, causing fine-particle concentrations to reach a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. These conditions are expected to persist until Friday morning, when a cold front passes over Minnesota bringing cleaner air into the region.

An air pollution health advisory has also been issued for the southern half of Minnesota including the Twin Cities and Rochester beginning Thursday evening and extending into Friday morning. Fine-particle concentrations across the southern half of Minnesota are expected to be moderate throughout the dayThursday. Overnight, as wind speeds decrease and temperature inversions form and strengthen, fine-particle concentrations are expected to increase and may reach levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups for short periods of time. Air quality conditions are expected to improve Friday afternoon as a cold front moves across Minnesota.

The MPCA issues an air pollution health alert when air quality conditions reach levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups, or an Air Quality Index greater than 101. An air pollution health advisory is issued when air quality conditions are expected to be near unhealthy for sensitive group levels, but remain below an AQI of 101. Current air quality conditions are updated hourly at the MPCA’s Air Quality Index website,

At-risk populations: Fine particle pollution is expected to reach a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Populations sensitive to fine particles include those with pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory disease, the elderly, children, and individuals who participate in activities requiring extended or heavy exertion, both indoors and outdoors. Members of these groups are encouraged to postpone or reduce vigorous activity and minimize exposure to local sources of air pollution (i.e.,heavy duty vehicle traffic, wood fires and candles). Even individuals who are otherwise healthy may experience health effects when pollution levels increase.

Health impacts: Exposure to high levels of fine particles has been linked with both respiratory and cardiovascular health effects. Fine particles may exacerbate pre-existing health conditions and may cause individuals to experience chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, contact your physician.

Pollution-reduction tips: Fine particles are produced from combustion activities, which include fossil fuel-based energy generation, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline-powered yard and lawn equipment, and wood burning. Conserving energy, buying clean renewable power, and using alternate means of transportation, such as mass transit, will all reduce your daily contribution to air pollution. During air quality alerts, residents are particularly encouraged to postpone or reduce vehicle trips and engine idling, reduce the use of gasoline-powered equipment, and avoid burning wood.

Visit for information on current air quality conditions in your area. To receive daily air quality forecasts and air quality alert notifications by email or text message, sign up at

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133