DEQ calls for burn ban

Ridge of high pressure has kept Northwest rain and snow free

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COEUR d'ALENE - A burn ban for the five northern counties in Idaho was issued Monday by the Department of Environmental Quality due to rising air pollution.

Open burning is prohibited in Kootenai, Shoshone, Benewah, Bonner and Boundary counties.

Residents are being asked to limit use of wood stoves, and be sure they are operating properly, too.

"Poor ventilation conditions will inhibit smoke dispersion," a DEQ press release said.

According to DEQ, the air quality in North Idaho is moderate, which means children, the elderly and those with health conditions should consider limiting prolonged outdoor activities.

The air quality is expected to degrade in all areas during the week.

Temperatures in the teens, along with little wind - while perhaps a nice break from winter snow and rain - have created stagnant air quality.

Smoke from wood stoves, and automotive exhaust, tend to be trapped at lower levels.

"It's just like somebody put a pot lid in the lower valley," said climatologist Cliff Harris.

Conditions aren't expected to change soon.

"Stable atmospheric conditions and light surface winds will contribute to the potential for increasing air pollution levels in most areas," a press release said.

The forecast is for continued dry weather, with partly cloudy skies and high temperatures in the 30s and lows in the teens.

Harris said a high-pressure ridge over the Pacific Northwest has been keeping North Idaho rain and snow free since late November. He doesn't see much moisture coming for another week or so.

"Things are pretty much stuck in neutral until we can push this high pressure ridge out of the way," he said.

There could be snow in mid-December, and as for the chance of a white Christmas, Harris pegs that at about 60 percent.

Meantime, people might want to enjoy the December sunshine.

"This isn't all that bad," Harris said.

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