SALT LAKE CITY — Some areas in Utah have seen extremely hazy skies in the past few days, and experts say it may get worse.
A Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) spokesperson told FOX 13 the visible air pollution appears to be smoke from wildfires, largely coming from northern Idaho and California. The National Weather Service (NWS) of Salt Lake City also said fires in southern Oregon are also contributing to the smog.
It got so bad in Cache Valley on Friday that the Cache County emergency dispatch had to assure residents via Twitter that there were no wildfires currently in their area.
On Saturday, the sky above the Salt Lake area was very hazy to the naked eye. Still, the DEQ said the pollutant levels of PM2.5 — "fine particulate matter pollution" often caused by wildfires in the summer — were in the moderate range on Saturday.
But northern and eastern Utah are expected to see worsening levels of smoke pollution over the next two days.
NWS SLC tweeted an animated smoke forecast Saturday, which showed higher concentrations coming in from Idaho and Nevada on Sunday and Monday:
Think the smoke today is bad? It could get worse! This model loop shows the smoke forecast from 3pm today through noon Monday. Darker reds and purple indicate higher concentrations of smoke. #utwx pic.twitter.com/Dh6MFznRUq— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) July 10, 2021
A fire and smoke map from AirNow.gov supported this, showing higher levels of smoke creeping into Utah — and already hitting the northwest corner of the state as of Saturday evening.
The DEQ added that ozone levels are currently in the higher range, and considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. Ozone pollution is created when emissions chemically react with sunlight. It is generally not visible and is most common in the summertime.
AirNow.gov numbers confirmed this, reporting a 129 AQI (air quality index) ozone level in Salt Lake City and 99 AQI for PM2.5 — also approaching a level of "unhealthy for sensitive groups."