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Air Quality Alert Extended for Chicago, Northwest Indiana as ‘Very Unhealthy’ Conditions Persist

Smoke from Canadian wildfires continues to result in poor air quality across the area

An air quality alert for northwest Indiana and northeastern Illinois set to expire at midnight Wednesday has been extended as air quality across the Chicago area continues to register as “very unhealthy” due to high smoke and ozone levels, an alert from the National Weather Service said Wednesday.

“An air quality action day has been forecast for northwest Indiana for elevated ozone levels and wildfire smoke, and is in effect until midnight Thursday night,” the alert says. “Ozone levels and smoke levels are expected to be at unhealthy levels for sensitive groups.”

In Illinois, the alert, which covers the entire Chicago area, including McHenry, Lake, DeKalb, Kane, DuPage, LaSalle, Cook, Grundy, Kendall and LaSalle counties, says that “The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency forecast unhealthy for fine particulate matter statewide on Wednesday June 28 and unhealthy for sensitive groups for fine particulate matter statewide Thursday June 29th.”

According to the alert, smoke from wildfires in Canada continues to impact the region, “pushing air quality into the unhealthy or worse categories.”

The NWS added that “the unique widespread nature of this episode” prompted the additional alert from the agency.

As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, much of Chicago’s air quality remained “very unhealthy,” — level four on a six-level scale — with a PM2.5 of 255, the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality website AirNow said.

Earlier Wednesday, that number was lower, at 225.

According to the EPA, any levels of PM2.5 over 200 is considered “very unhealthy.”

Some parts of the Chicago area on Wednesday continue to waiver between “Very Unhealthy” and “Unhealthy.” Conditions were expected to slowly and gradually improve through the afternoon and evening hours for many. Thursday through Sunday, the air quality is expected to improve even more, AirNow shows.

In the “Very Unhealthy” category, all residents, especially seniors, children, and those with heart or lung disease, are advised to limit their time outdoors. Tuesday, as the poor air quality continued to worsen, events across the city and suburbs were postponed due to the conditionsIn Evanston, officials moved to close beaches, later advising residents that beaches would remain closed Wednesday as well.

Mayor Johnson on Tuesday and Wednesday issued statements regarding the air quality, saying that the city is “carefully monitoring” Chicago’s air quality, adding that residents may consider wearing masks and recommended that
“all Chicagoans – and particularly sensitive populations, including individuals with heart or lung disease, older adults, pregnant people, and young children – avoid outdoor activities and take precautions to protect themselves from exposure.”

But smoke and poor air quality isn’t the only part of the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.

According to the NBC 5 Storm Team, an active weather pattern developing Wednesday is expected to bring daily rain through the weekend, with some storms in the forecast. And though some clusters of showers moving in through Iowa could hit parts of Illinois Wednesday, the higher chance for rain and storms will come overnight into Thursday, NBC 5 Meteorologist Alicia Roman said.

According to the NBC 5 Storm Team, storms on Wednesday have only a marginal risk of becoming strong. However, some storms Thursday have a higher potential to become severe, with heavy downpours, winds up to 60 miles per hour, hail and flooding all possible.

Temperatures Wednesday are expected to remain in the upper 70s to mid 80s, with low humidity. Thursday though, humidity is expected to build and temperatures are likely to rise into the 80s and 90s, the NBC 5 Storm Team says.

Rain and storm chances are expected to continue Friday and into the weekend, forecast models show.

Source: NBC Chicago