The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air quality alert for nearly all of Minnesota, with the exception of the North Shore.

The alert is in effect until 3 p.m. Friday, July 30. The air quality alert began at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday for Crow Wing, Cass, Aitkin and Mille Lacs counties.

Northerly winds behind a cold front will bring smoke from wildfires located north of the Canadian border in Ontario and Manitoba into Minnesota, the pollution control agency said in a news release. Heavy smoke is expected to arrive around 10 p.m. Wednesday near the Canadian border and midmorning Thursday in central and southern Minnesota.

Smoke will remain over the area into Friday. During this time, fine particle levels are expected to be in the Orange Air Quality Index category, a level considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, the release stated. Fine particle levels will begin to improve Friday morning as southerly winds start moving the smoke out of the state. By Friday afternoon, air quality should improve below alert levels statewide.

People who are more likely to be affected when fine particle pollution reaches an unhealthy level include:

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  • Those with asthma or other breathing conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;

  • People who have heart disease or high blood pressure;

  • Children and older adults;

  • Those doing heavy, physical activity outdoors, such playing sports or working, especially for extended periods.

Air pollution can aggravate heart and cardiovascular disease as well as lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the state agency reported. When the air quality is unhealthy, people with these conditions may experience symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing or fatigue. Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms, should use an inhaler as directed and contact a health care provider.

The pollution control agency recommends the following precautions:

  • Take it easy and listen to your body,

  • Limit, change, or postpone physical activity,

  • If possible, stay away from local sources of air pollution like busy roads and wood fires,

  • Those who have asthma, or other breathing conditions, should be sure to have an relief/rescue inhaler with them;

  • People with asthma should review and follow guidance in their written asthma action plan.

The main source of fine particle pollution is any activity that uses fuel. Conserving energy and buying clean, renewable energy are great lifestyle choices to help reduce overall pollution, the pollution control agency stated.

Pollution reduction tips include:

  • Reduce vehicle trips,

  • Use public transport or carpool when possible,

  • Postpone use of gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment on air alert days. Use battery or manual equipment instead,

  • Avoid backyard fires.

For information on local current air quality conditions and to sign up for daily air quality forecasts and alert notifications by email, text message, phone, or the Minnesota Air mobile app, visit the MPCA’s Air Quality Index webpage. Additional information about health and indoor and outdoor air quality at the agency's Air Quality and Health webpage.

The National Weather Service in Duluth issued a hazardous weather outlook Wednesday for northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin and includes Crow Wing, Cass and Aitkin counties. Large hail to ping pong ball size, wind gusts to 60 mph, and frequent cloud-

to-ground lightning were the main threats.

In the Brainerd area, severe thunderstorms are possible after 5 p.m. Wednesday. There is a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 8 p.m. Some of the storms could be severe. The forecast calls for a mostly clear sky at night, with a low around 63. Breezy, with a north wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

The forecast for Brainerd includes:

  • Thursday’s high may be near 81, with wind gusts as high as 20 mph; with a low around 57.

  • Friday’s high may be near 84, with a low of 62;

  • Saturday’s high is expected to be near 81, with a low of 62;

  • Sunday’s high may be near 77, with a low around 53.