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Smoky skies hang over the Prairies amid the severe weather potential

Monday, July 19th 2021, 8:29 pm - Thunderstorm potential will be mostly focused in Alberta Tuesday, as hot, smoky and dry conditions linger for the rest of the week.

Air quality has become progressively worse on the Prairies in recent days, and will continue to be quite poor on Tuesday as wildfire smoke continues to pass through the provinces. Along with the smoky skies, parts of the Prairies will see the threat for severe thunderstorms again Tuesday after rolling through parts of southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan Monday night. The focus will largely be in central and northern Alberta, where the core of the instability will be focused. The province may see multiple waves of storms push through the day, anticipated to reach parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the overnight hours. However, the threat of storms could be hindered by the smoke layer, as instability may be limited through the day. The chance of severe thunderstorms will persist on Wednesday, with the attention centred on Alberta once more. More on timing and impacts, below.

TUESDAY: RISK FOR SEVERE STORMS MOSTLY FOCUSED IN ALBERTA

Southern Manitoba may continue to see severe storms roll through in the overnight and pre-dawn hours Tuesday morning, with the main risk being torrential rain and large hail.

Later on Tuesday, the threat for severe weather will be focused mostly on central and northern Alberta, where the core of the instability will be. The warm front will be draped across the international border, though remaining stateside, with a trough extending into Saskatchewan.

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There could be multiple waves of storms in central and northern Alberta, including along the foothills, through the day Tuesday. Any storms that do pop are likely to be severe. However, if the smoke layer is still widely present, it could limit the amount of instability that can build through the day, thus limiting the severe storm threat.

The threat for severe storms will spillover into western Saskatchewan and pockets of southern Manitoba. The main hazards with any severe storm that does fire up will be heavy rain, strong wind gusts and large hail.

Central Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba may see storms sweep through in the overnight hours. But the rain for the latter this week is unlikely to put much of a dent in the drought for most of the region - more just localized and temporary for relief.

The risk for severe thunderstorms will continue Wednesday for parts of the region, as a system could bring potentially a substantial threat into central and northern Alberta in the afternoon hours. The risk will spillover into western Saskatchewan.

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The main hazards with any severe storm that develops will be heavy rainfall, strong wind gusts and large hail.

SMOKY CONDITIONS, POOR AIR QUALITY

Poor air quality remains a significant hazard across the Prairies and Interior British Columbia Tuesday.

Shifting winds will steer the worst air quality toward different parts of the region early this week, but the smoke will hang thick in the air and make it difficult to breathe or spend much time outdoors unprotected.

MUST SEE: Smoky skies span the country with nearly 800 active wildfires burning

July 18 2021 PM Smoke Visible Satellite Widespread wildfire smoke showed up on visible satellite imagery on July 18, 2021, as wildfires raged from Interior British Columbia to northwestern Ontario. (NOAA)

Very high Air Quality Health Index values are being reported through much of Alberta, and are expected to remain high through mid-week in central and northern regions. However, areas in western portions of Alberta will see air quality marginally improve Tuesday afternoon as smoke begins to clear from the west.

In addition, east winds are pushing forest fire smoke from eastern Manitoba into Saskatchewan. The smoke from Manitoba will likely thicken up somewhat Tuesday. As a result, much of Saskatchewan will experience very poor air quality from time to time over the next few days.

Widespread special air quality statements are in effect to advise residents of the dangers of inhaling wildfire smoke.

“Wildfire smoke is a constantly-changing mixture of particles and gasses which includes many chemicals that can harm your health,” according to EC's special air quality statement. The agency added that “people with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, can be particularly sensitive to air pollution.”

If you have to spend any significant amount of time outdoors during periods of thick smoke, wear a tight-fitting mask that’s rated to filter out the small particulate matter found in wildfire smoke.

LOOK AHEAD: STAYING HOT AND MOSTLY DRY

Temperatures will remain well above-seasonal for the rest of this week and beyond, as this brutally hot summer continues to roast the Prairies. Little to no meaningful precipitation is likely for the hardest-hit areas, with severe drought conditions continuing to worsen for southern sections.

July 18 2021 PM Prairies Temps Thurs

Many cities on the southern Prairies will achieve the rare feat of remaining over the 30°C mark for a week straight. For some, overnight lows won’t fall below 20°C. Above-seasonal nighttime lows make matters worse during hot weather, as warm nights preclude much relief from the sweltering heat of the day. Although, if a heavy smoke blanket remains and acts as a shield from the sun, cooler temperatures can be expected.

Continued high heat and little rainfall is a terrible prospect for agriculture on the Prairies, which is already suffering from the effects of the heat and dryness they’ve experienced so far this season.

WATCH BELOW: WHAT LONGER, HOTTER, AND MORE FREQUENT HEAT WAVES MEANS FOR YOUR HEALTH

Be sure to check back for the latest on the Prairies thunderstorm threats and heat.

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