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SALT LAKE CITY — Monday marks the fourth straight day that smoke from Western fires has blanketed Utah, dropping Salt Lake City air quality levels to some of the worst among cities in the world.
Even meteorologists are astounded by the stretch of unhealthy wildfire smoke blown in from out of state the last few days.
"I know there have been some summers where we've had smoke, but on the ground this thick? ... it's the thickest smoke that I've ever seen," said KSL meteorologist Grant Weyman. "We were seeing the numbers on (the air quality index) scale pushing well above 200. Even on a bad day when we get those temperature inversions in January, I've never seen it that high. That puts it into perspective."
WorldIQ Air on Friday rated Salt Lake City's air quality the worst among some major cities across the globe. It was knocked out of the top spot on the dubious list over the weekend by Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Russian media outlets report wildfires are to blame for poor air quality there, as well. In fact, scientists from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer reported Friday that wildfire smoke from Russia's Siberian region even reached the North Pole in what "appears to be a first in recorded history."
Denver also began to rise up on the WorldIQ Air charts this weekend as soon as the smoke from California and Oregon wildfires reached the Mile High City. Salt Lake City's air quality even reached as high as the fifth-worst on the list Monday morning.
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality's Division of Air Quality forecast placed Salt Lake County's air quality levels unhealthy for all groups. It also listed air quality levels as unhealthy for sensitive groups across the rest of the state. KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank said there could be some pockets of southern Utah able to escape some of the higher-level smoke readings, but the division forecast calls for air quality levels at least unhealthy for sensitive groups across most of Utah the next few days.
Far southern Utah will see some decrease in the concentration of smoke my Monday afternoon, but northern and central Utah will see little change in the smoke. Unfortunately, it looks like the smoke sticks around through at least midweek. #utwxpic.twitter.com/9P4GckG9no— NWS Salt Lake City (@NWSSaltLakeCity) August 8, 2021
Relief from this stretch of unhealthy smoke may finally be in sight by midweek.
Eubank said a weather pattern coming from the south is forecast to arrive in Utah either Wednesday or Thursday. The pattern could also bring monsoonal moisture back into Utah. The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center released a 6- to 10-day outlook Sunday that lists a 33% chance of rain for most of the southern half of Utah between Sunday and Aug. 18.
The pattern also changes the wind direction in Utah's favor.
"It's the southerly flow that will bring us the rains and actually get rid of the smoke," Eubank said.
As the smoke clears and southern Utah areas may start to see rain mid-week, Weyman said temperatures will again reach close to 100 degrees across the Wasatch Front to close out the week.
That also means Salt Lake City could inch closer to the record of 100-degree days in one year in the weather service record book. There have already been 19 100-degree days in Salt Lake City this year. The record is 21, which has happened twice in the 147 years that the weather service has tracked weather data.
Full forecasts for areas across Utah can be found at the KSL Weather Center. Current air quality reports for areas across the Wasatch Front — as well as stations in northern, eastern and southern Utah — can be found at the KSL Air Quality Network.
Utah firefighters dispatched to Dixie Fire
Twenty-two Utah firefighters and five engines from the state were dispatched to the massive Dixie Fire Monday morning, according to the Utah Division of Emergency Management. The fire, which has devastated communities in northern California, continues to grow and is the biggest contributor to the smoke still blanketing Utah.
Federal agencies listed it at nearly 490,000 acres in size, or nearly 765 square miles, as of Monday morning. It's listed as 21% contained.
It's the fourth group of Utah firefighters dispatched to Western fires this year. Crews from Unified Fire Authority, Wasatch County Sheriff's Office, as well as the Cedar City, Draper, Murray, Orem, Provo and West Valley City fire departments compose the team headed to fight the fire. The team is expected to spend the next 16 days away from home, including two full weeks fighting the fire.