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Canadian fires leave smoke in DeKalb County air

Effects of wildfires can bother residents with sensitive lungs

DeKALB – If you are wondering where all the smoke in the air came from Monday and why it is still here, the National Weather Service has two words for you: Manitoba, Canada.

Winds have carried smoke from wildfires in western Ontario and eastern Manitoba, Canada, to the northern U.S. on Monday. A forecast shows Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana as the worst-affected areas. The smoke has traveled as far east as New York and as far west as Minnesota.

Lee Carlaw, National Weather Service meteorologist, said there has not been a noticeable decrease in air quality in northern Illinois, although some people may notice a difference.

Sycamore resident Diana Swanson was one who noticed a change Monday.

“I saw all this smoke and thought, ‘My gosh, is something on fire?’ ” Swanson said. “I’m looking around, I’m not seeing anything, nobody is running around, and then I’m starting to realize that maybe it’s not all that healthy for me to be doing this.”

Swanson, 59, has mild asthma and said she could feel her chest tightening as she sat inside after a 15-minute walk.

“I think for people who have chronic bronchitis and asthma, it would affect them,” Swanson said.

Smoke from fires that have been burning since June 28 was caught in a ridge of high pressure and has been directed into the region, Carlaw said. The smoke layer, which is at 10,000 to 12,000 feet, may dim the sun and create colorful sunrises and sunsets, according to the National Weather Service website.

However, a weak flow in the area means the smoke will continue to linger as far south as Missouri until it starts to clear up by Tuesday afternoon, he said.

A 19-hour forecast shows a dissipation of the worst affected areas in Illinois starting about noon. The smoke will move from the northern part of the state into Iowa and Minnesota, according to the forecast.

Student pilots at the DeKalb Municipal Airport took the day off as visibility in the skies was as low as
21/2 miles, Airport Manager Tom Cleveland said.

The airport also saw a decrease in private pilot usage, but Cleveland said commercial airports were not affected.

Many others noticed the haze but were unaffected by the Canadian smoke.

Local shoppers were unperturbed. Some were not aware there was smoke in the area, and others could see and smell it, but otherwise were not bothered.

DeKalb resident Patti Weihofen, 78, was shopping Monday at Walmart and Best Buy. She said although she has some breathing issues, she was more curious about where the smoke came from than anything else.

“I noticed it when I stepped outside of Walmart,” Weihofen said. “It hasn’t bothered me.”

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