Inversion blankets Missoula

Jordan Powell of Edgell Building worked on a home in Missoula's Stone Mountain neighborhood as an inversion blanketed the city in November 2018.

The Missoula City-County Health Department called a Stage I Air Pollution Alert on Sunday morning due to "persistent inversions and growing pollution levels."

As of 5 p.m. Sunday, the alert still bans any visible emissions from a wood stove, or any other fuel burning device without a permit within the city's Air Stagnation Zone. 

That zone includes the city, and a roughly 4 mile perimeter surrounding it. 

"Hopefully, this will be a short-lived Alert," wrote Sarah Coefield, air quality specialist for the local health department, in a 10:00 a.m. update. "Our intent in calling the alert is to limit adding pollution to the Missoula valley while air is trapped on the valley floor." 

A high pressure ridge and lack of breezes in the forecast are contributing to the unclean air, but Coefield said the situation looks set to change.

"In addition to a chance of the pollution breaking out in late afternoon, we are expecting a significant weather shift by Wednesday that will bring winds and better ventilation back to western Montana," she said.

Data from the Department of Environment Quality's website showed particulate levels in Missoula's air peaking around 4 a.m., briefly at levels potentially threatening those with heart or lung disease, smokers, children and the elderly. 

In its initial announcement, the health department advised those sensitive groups to limit their time outdoors. 

Those leveled dropped down into the moderate quality range by 3 p.m. 

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