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Tracking the smoke from western wildfires to Iowa

A hot air balloon floats in the hazy skies over Marion on Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Far from the flames, smoke produced by the fires is carrying pollutants hundreds of miles to Iowa. That's what producing hazy skies and fiery-looking sunsets. But health experts say the air quality in eastern Iowa is not a concern just yet.

"Our monitoring right now tells us that the levels are within the national health standards." said Jim Hodina, Environmental Manager for Linn County Public Health. Although moderate levels of particulates are observed in an around Iowa, Hodina says it's not a major threat. If anyone notices problems from the smoke, the first to experience trouble would be children whose lungs are still developing, and adults with chronic conditions including asthma and COPD.

"Everybody reacts differently," said Hodina, "and there's certainly sensitive populations that would be more in tune with what's going on with air quality."

Weatherfirst Chief Meteorologist Terry Swails says although impacts are limited, there are times that you'll notice the difference. "If you were out Sunday, you could actually smell the smoke in the air so it actually got down to the ground which is a little bit unusual, typically it's higher up in the clouds."

Terry says forecasters are now utilizing high resolution satellite images, giving the best view ever of the smoke from the source to your doorstep. "Not just the origins of them but where that smoke is transported across the Midwest, and where it gets involved in the actual storm track and gets pushed across the country."

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