Smoke Reaches Chicago From Rapidly Spreading Minnesota Fire

By By Brian Edwards, Meteorologist
September 17, 2011, 1:27:53 AM EDT

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Strong northwesterly winds are sending a smoke plume from a rapidly growing northern Minnesota wildfire all the way to Chicago.

The Pagami Creek Fire has expanded dramatically over the past couple of days across northern Minnesota due to the strong winds caused by powerful cold fronts dropping south from Canada. This fire, located about 14 miles east of Ely, Minn., lies within the popular Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews, "The Wilderness area is made up of evergreen, spruce and pine trees which are very quick and easy to burn."

The fire began on Aug. 18 and was apparently started by lightning as thunderstorms rolled through.

The Boundary Waters Wilderness Area is very popular among residents and tourists alike. Vehicles aren't permitted inside the area, therefore many people take canoes and navigate through the land.

The fire tripled in size from Monday to Tuesday due to the strong winds howling across the region. As of early Wednesday morning, the blaze was burning 100,000 acres of northern Minnesota.

Unfortunately, the gusty winds and lack of significant precipitation will continue to allow for the spread of the wildfire through the end of the week, while also sending smoke into the bigger cities of the Great Lakes.

Racine, Wis., and Waukegan, Ill., reported visibility drops early Tuesday morning as smoke has filled the air.

Smoke arrived in Chicago by Tuesday evening, dropping the visibility to 5 miles at times.

Smoke can be a problem for people with respiratory problems, especially the elderly. These folks should stay inside and avoid outdoor physical activity in the smoky conditions.



Content contributed by Meteorologist Meghan Evans

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