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News release

May 13, 2024


David Brown, 612-251-5703,

Air quality alert due to wildfire smoke continues for southern Minnesota

Map showing active air quality alert in the red category for the southern half of Minnesota.

Air quality is expected to reach the red AQI category across southern Minnesota, which is unhealthy for everyone.

The air quality alert issued by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) continues this morning for southern Minnesota. The alert runs until noon on Monday, May 13. The affected area includes the Twin Cities metro, Albert Lea, Marshall, Worthington, Rochester, St. Cloud, Winona, Ortonville, Mankato, and the tribal nations of Upper Sioux and Prairie Island.

A band of very heavy smoke from wildfires in northeast British Columbia swept across the entire state of Minnesota on Sunday. Smoke has cleared the northern half of the state Monday morning and air quality has improved below alert conditions there. However, smoke will linger over southern Minnesota on Monday as northerly winds become light during the day. Portions of central Minnesota between Alexandria and the Twin Cities can expect rapid improvement in air quality before noon Monday as the northern edge of the smoke plume continues to move south. Smoke should exit the Twin Cities around noon Monday. Smoke will likely linger through the afternoon and into the early evening across far southern Minnesota. The alert may need to be extended for far southern Minnesota. Air quality is expected to reach the Red (Unhealthy) category for the southern half of the state.

Fine particle levels are expected to reach the red air quality index (AQI) category, a level considered unhealthy for everyone, across southern Minnesota. In the red area, sensitive groups should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and limit time spent outdoors. Everyone should limit prolonged or heavy exertion and time spent outdoors.

Air alert wood smoke-red

What this alert means

Air moves long distances and carries pollutants. During air quality alerts due to wildfires, the air is mixed with harmful smoke. Wildfire smoke spreads or lingers depending on the size of the fires, the wind, and the weather.

The air quality index (AQI) is color-coded. Air quality alerts are issued when the AQI is forecast to reach an unhealthy level, which includes forecasts in the orange, red, purple, and maroon categories. For a full description of each air quality category, visit

Red air quality: Unhealthy for everyone

Sights and smells: In areas where air quality is in the red AQI category due to wildfires, the sky may look smoky. The air will look hazy, and you won’t be able to see long distances. You may smell smoke.

Health effects: This air is unhealthy for everyone. Anyone may begin to experience symptoms such as irritated eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath. Sensitive or more exposed individuals may experience more serious health effects, including worsening of existing heart or lung disease and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, possibly leading to an asthma attack, heart attack, or stroke.

What to do: Reduce outdoor physical activities, take more breaks, and avoid intense activities to reduce exposure. Sensitive and more exposed individuals should avoid prolonged or vigorous activities and consider shortening, rescheduling, or moving outdoor events inside.

Who is most at risk

Poor air quality impacts health. Fine particle pollution from wildfire smoke can irritate eyes, nose, and throat, and cause coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fatigue. Smoke particles are small enough that they can be breathed deeply into lungs and enter the bloodstream. This can lead to illnesses such as bronchitis or aggravate existing chronic heart and lung diseases, triggering heart palpitations, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and strokes.

Certain groups experience health effects from unhealthy air quality sooner than others, either because they are more sensitive to fine particle pollution or because they are exposed to larger amounts of it.

Sensitive groups include:

  • People who have asthma or other breathing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • People who have heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
  • Pregnant people.
  • Children and older adults.

People with increased exposure include:

  • People of all ages who do longer or more vigorous physical activity outdoors.
    • People who work outdoors, especially workers who do heavy manual labor.
    • People who exercise or play sports outdoors, including children.
  • People who don’t have air conditioning and need to keep windows open to stay cool.
  • People in housing not tight enough to keep unhealthy air out, or who do not have permanent shelter.

Anyone experiencing health effects related to poor air quality should contact their health care provider. Those with severe symptoms, chest pain, trouble breathing, or who fear they may be experiencing a heart attack or stroke should call 911 immediately.

Take precautions

Reduce or eliminate activities that contribute to air pollution, such as outdoor burning, and use of residential wood burning devices. Reduce vehicle trips and vehicle idling as much as possible. Keep windows closed to ensure outside smoke does not enter your home.

Stay informed

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