Shifting winds today should help clear away some of the heavy smoke that settled over Thunder Bay and region this weekend mostly due to a pair of large forest fires that have resulted in the evacuation of two First Nations communities.

Monica Vaswani, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said southerly winds in the areas of the fires will push the smoke further north towards Hudson Bay and James Bay.

“There will still likely be smoke in the Thunder Bay area but it probably won’t be as thick as what you’ve been seeing over the weekend,” said Vaswani.

Red Lake Fire No. 39 at over 40,000 hectares is threatening Pikangikum First Nation, which is about 100 kilometres north of Red Lake, while Red Lake Fire No. 23 near Keewaywin First Nation, 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, is just about at 72,000 hectares.

“The good news is those areas where the fires are located are supposed to get rain Monday evening, so maybe that will help to diminish their strength,” said Vaswani. “But there are also threats of thunder storms and (lightning strikes) could potentially cause more fires.”

Smoke in the air over Thunder Bay made a forecasted clear-sky weekend appear overcast, but that sunshine helped to keep levels of air pollution fairly low at the surface.

“Though you see it in the sky, the threat to air quality is at the lower end during afternoons,” said Vaswani, adding that with less sun in the evenings and light winds the air quality can get worse over night.

The layer of smoke also affects temperatures just as cloud cover would and Vaswani explained that daytime highs in the region were two to three degrees cooler due to the smoke.

While Vaswani said meteorologists are able to forecast wind directions, it is difficult to say what the smoke will do beyond Tuesday as they can’t predict how the fires will behave.

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