Smoke from Canada wildfire blankets region, National Weather service issues alert

May 18—MITCHELL — A thick haze of smoke settled over Mitchell and the southern half of the state Thursday morning, May 18, as it traveled 900 miles southward from wildfires raging in Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada.

A National Weather Service warning was issued at 3:30 a.m. urging people to "limit time outdoors." The warning is out for multiple South Dakota counties, which include Gregory, Jerauld, Sanborn, Miner, Lake, Moody, Brule, Aurora, Davison, Hanson, McCook, Minnehaha, Charles Mix, Douglas, Hutchinson, Turner, Bon Homme and Yankton.

Before Thursday, the smoke drifted southward, but no weather warning was issued. However, due to shifting weather patterns, the air has now thickened and is in the range of hazardous to very unhealthy, said Sioux Falls-based National Weather Service meteorologist Brittany Peterson. Peterson is urging everyone to stay indoors as much as possible, as she says the smoke is covering regions of Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa as well.

"You might have noticed over the past couple days the sky being hazy or milky-looking. It's because smoke has been streaming through overhead. But because of shifts in weather patterns, now the smoke has dropped down closer to ground level," Peterson said.

The smoke now is thick enough that it is affecting more than just the vulnerable.

"Typically if we have some smoke, we recommend people in more vulnerable groups to stay inside," Peterson said. "But due to the severity of the smoke, outdoor activity should be avoided by everyone."

Over the past couple of days, wildfires spreading in Saskatchewan, Canada have tripled in size, spreading to an area of 300 square miles of land as of Wednesday, May 17, according to the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.