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Blazes on West Coast causing hazy skies in basin
Crowheart Butte was shrouded in smoke Thursday afternoon as seen from the rest area near Bull Lake. Photo by Katie Roenigk

Blazes on West Coast causing hazy skies in Wind River Basin

Jul 18, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The smoke wafting through Fremont County this week is coming from blazes burning more than 1,000 miles away.

"In Oregon and southern Washington there's a whole slew of fires," National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Braun said Friday. "Then there's also a bunch of fires in Canada, from Alberta and Saskatchewan and points further north."

The local smoke is mostly from the West Coast, but Braun said the haze from Canada may be contributing as well.

"That was coming in mainly to northern parts of Wyoming just north of us, (but) a little could have combined in there too," Braun said. "Either way, the southern half of Wyoming is getting it from the Western states of Oregon and Washington, and Montana and northern Wyoming is getting it from Canada."

Pretty sunsets

Visibility could clear in the near future, but as of Friday, Braun said it was difficult to make out the Wind River Mountains from the NWS office in Riverton.

On a more positive note, he pointed out that the smoke "makes for pretty sunsets."

"If it gets even thicker -- like it does sometimes -- you get those nice photographic days even during the midday," he said. "It filters the sunlight in here and makes things more yellow than they normally would be at midday.

"All things considered it could be worse."

When fires are closer, he said the smoke can be uncomfortably dense.

"People (are) able to smell it, taste it, feel it," Braun said. "So this is relatively benign kind of smoke."

He added that a temperature inversion would trap more smoky fog in the Wind River Basin.

"(Then we) might be able to smell it a bit," he said.

For now, however, a westerly flow aloft is bringing the smoke over the mountains to the west of Fremont County.

"It's not scooting around on the ground," Braun said. "It's coming from above."

Once it reaches the basin, it typically gets trapped overnight "almost down to the surface" before drifting away in the late morning and early afternoon.

"Then it flares up out west again, and we sort of cycle back over," Braun said. "As long as we have a sort of west-northwest flow in here, it's going to (stay around)."

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