Salt Lake Tops Worst Air Quality Charts Despite Recent Rain

Aug 19, 2021, 7:54 AM | Updated: 8:00 am
IQAir said Salt Lake City had the world's worst air quality among major cities on Thursday....
IQAir said Salt Lake City had the world's worst air quality among major cities on Thursday.

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite severe weather that dropped over 6″ of rain in parts of the Beehive State, Utah had some of the world’s worst air quality Thursday morning.

Site IQAir, which partners with the United Nations Environmental Program, U.N. Habitat and Greenpeace, ranked Salt Lake City as having the worst air quality among major cities at 7 a.m.

According to the KSL Air Quality Network, the Wasatch Front had unhealthy air while central and southern Utah saw air that was unhealthy for sensitive groups.

KSL viewers also reported smelling smoke following Wednesday’s severe weather, which forced Millard School District officials to close Delta schools and flooded homes and roads across the state.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service said they were surprised at the smoky conditions that lingered following the rain, but said the cause was the large volume of smoke from fires over Northern California being concentrated by a front moving through the area.

Darren Van Cleave, a science and operations officer for the National Weather Service’s Salt Lake City Office, told KSL.com, “This is so concentrated that rain is not going to provide the mixing necessary to make any difference there and the wind that we’re having is predominantly southwesterly — well, that lines right up with the transport direction of the smoke, so that’s not bringing in cleaner air. … We don’t have a good mechanism to clean it out.”

The NWS tweeted that relief from the smoke may not come until Thursday afternoon.

Air quality is expected to improve to moderate (yellow) conditions in Cache County and eastern Utah, while slight improvements to the unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange) are expected for the Wasatch Front.

Southern Utah will see moderately unhealthy air later Thursday.

Red flag conditions fed a dozen uncontrolled wildfires, including the month-old Dixie Fire and the nearby Caldor Fire in the northern Sierra Nevada that incinerated much of the small rural towns of Greenville and Grizzly Flats.

The Dixie Fire has burned 1,000 square miles — an area 1.2x larger than Salt Lake County.

“This is not going to end anytime soon,” Thom Porter, chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said of the Dixie Fire. “Everybody’s going to be sucking smoke for a long time.”

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Salt Lake Tops Worst Air Quality Charts Despite Recent Rain