An AIR QUALITY ALERT continues for southwest Montana.
Hallelujah! A major change has swept across the state with cooler and cleaner air, as well as less wind. Wednesday was a brutally dangerous and hot day, with significant growth on many fires. A cold front passed through on Thursday morning, and most of the state is a lot more comfortable and breathing easy. Fire season is far from over, but things have calmed down some for the time being. Air quality that's been terrible has also improved, but parts of western Montana are still dealing with poor air quality being closer to larger fires. After Wednesday, the worst of summer's heat and fire danger will be behind us. Over the next week or so, things will really settle into more of a fall-like pattern. Thursday night into Friday, there is a chance of some solid light rain and higher elevation snow. Most of Friday will be mostly cloudy with some showers and mountain snow, especially along and east of the Continental Divide out through central Montana. Highs Friday may hold in the 50s and 60s with the clouds and light precipitation. The mountains could have highs in the 30s and 40s, supporting some wet snow mixing in with the rain. As the storm moves out and high pressure moves in Friday night, temperatures will be the coldest in months. Most areas will drop into the 30s, with a frost or freeze possible. More good news, the rain and this northerly flow should help to clean out some of the smoke, at least temporarily. Saturday will be a gorgeous late summer day with highs in the 70s, clean air and sky, and a light east wind. Temperatures and wind will increase once again for Sunday and Monday. As the flow switches around to the southwest, expect wildfire smoke to increase and air quality to decrease through Monday into Tuesday. Moisture from Hurricane Kay, which is currently off of Baja California, could move up across a lot of the West toward the middle of next week. This is exactly what we need to get the West closer to the end of fire season. Rain and consistently cooler temperatures are needed on wildfires outside of Montana to really end the smoky skies. The second half of September will feature cooler temperatures and more rain opportunities with mountain snow.