It’s still raining, but the smoke isn’t going away anytime soon

It’s coming from fires in California, which may keep burning until the fall or winter.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rain Wednesday caused flooding on I-215 at 3300 South. It will continue to rain across Utah Thursday, but smoke from wildfires in California will also persist.

Rain fell across much of Utah on Wednesday, continuing through the night. And yet it still hasn’t cleared the air.

Residents of Salt Lake, Cache, Davis, Tooele and Utah counties woke up to more muck on Thursday morning — either orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) or red (unhealthy for everyone) air conditions, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. And the air was moderately bad/yellow in Carbon, Duchesne, Iron and Washington Counties.

The forecast for air quality Thursday is orange in Salt Lake, Davis, Tooele and Utah Counties, and yellow in other areas. On Friday, expect yellow conditions in all monitored counties except Iron and Washington, where it’s expected to be green.

The vast majority of the smoke isn’t coming from Utah. With all the rain, the Parleys Canyon Fire has largely been doused. It’s 80% contained and still at 541 acres; the Morgan Canyon Fire is 90% contained at 509 acres; and the East Desolation Fire is 50% contained at 350 acres.

The smoke that’s choking Utah’s air is coming mainly from northern California. The massive Dixie Fire has burned more than 660,000 acres and, as of Thursday morning, is only 35% contained. And it’s not just the Dixie Fire that’s sending smoke to Utah — firefighters are battling 11 major fires in California alone, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

The Caldor Fire east of Sacramento nearly doubled in size overnight to more than 53,000 acres. It’s 0% contained.

And there are currently 12 fires in Oregon, 18 in Washington, and 23 in Idaho.

When is this going to end? Climate and fire experts told the Redding Record Searchlight that the Dixie Fire and others in northern California may not be extinguished until late fall or winter, when cooler weather, rain and snow arrive.

“Pretty much anytime the air is moving in our direction coming from one of those fires, we’re going to be dealing with smoke,” said David Church, lead meteorologist at the Salt Lake City office of the National Weather Service. “We’re probably not going to be seeing some serious improvement until we start getting more into the fall when we start to see more precipitation across those areas.”

Colder temperatures and precipitation will start in British Columbia and will “slowly kind of work its way south.” In California, that could be “November or later,” Church said. “We could be dealing with this smoke for a long time.”

That doesn’t mean that the smoke will blow into Utah every day until the California fires are put out. According to the National Weather Service, there will be “gradual improvement” in smoke concentration over northern Utah on Thursday — although, again, it’s only expected to improve to moderate/yellow.

The smoke isn’t going away on Thursday, and neither is the rain. According to the National Weather Service, northern and central Utah will see showers and scattered thunderstorms, with “stray showers” in other parts of the state. Flash flooding is possible in eastern Utah.

Snow fell in the high Uintas on Wednesday night, and on Snowbird on Thursday morning. There could be more snow at higher elevations on Thursday night.

The small community of Deseret, about 10 miles southwest of Delta, got 5.43 inches of rain between 10 p.m. Tuesday and 10 p.m. Wednesday, more than 2½ times the old record, set in 1915.

Temperatures will remain unseasonably cool in the Salt Lake City area, with highs in the 60s expected on Thursday and in the 70s on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The forecast calls for a dry Friday, but there’s a 30% chance of more rain Saturday afternoon, a 50% chance on Saturday night, and a 20% on Sunday morning.

There’s a 30% chance of rain in the St. George area on Thursday morning, and patchy smoke is expected later in the day. Temperatures will be in the mid-80s on Thursday, the upper 80s on Friday, the low 90s on Saturday and the mid-90s on Sunday.