Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News)- Smoke that filled the skies and blanketed Rochester along with most of Minnesota this week has now triggered a statewide air quality alert. 

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The smoke is the result of wildfires burning in western Canada. The alert issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) says in part, "A band of very heavy ground-level smoke from wildfires in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan is currently moving along a cold front in northwestern Minnesota. The smoke will continue to move south and east and eventually impact the entire state of Minnesota."

The initial alert was set for most of northern Minnesota and parts of central Minnesota. On Thursday morning the MPCA expanded an air quality alert that now covers the entire state.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Rochester along with the rest of southeast Minnesota and extreme northeast Minnesota are the only areas in an orange alert meaning the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups. The rest of the state is in a red alert, which means the air is unhealthy for all Minnesotans.

The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, SD released a projection of the smoke pattern Thursday morning that shows the smoke moving into the central US Thursday morning. The model predicts the smoke will leave the upper midwest by Friday afternoon as a cold front pushes into the region. 

The statewide air quality alert is scheduled to expire at 6 a.m. on Friday. Officials advise residents vulnerable to the poor air quality to limit prolonged outdoor activity and outdoor exertion.

Amazing Northern Lights Spotted in Southeast Minnesota (PHOTOS)

The night sky was dancing and full of color on Thursday, March 23rd as the Northern Lights were spotted all over Southeast Minnesota. And it was truly phenomenal! Below are a few photos captured by individuals in and around the Rochester, Minnesota area.

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