The air quality in Michigan right now sucks, and it's by no means anyone's direct fault. We're suffering the second-hand effects of wildfires in Quebec, with smoke swirling around all of Michigan, and along Lake Michigan.

But there's something odd about this smoke. The smell, the taste, the appearance... Why doesn't Michigan look like New York did a few weeks ago when the smoke came through there? And why doesn't it smell like normal wildfire smoke?

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Areas in western Michigan - especially Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo - reportedly had worse air quality than Chicago, and some of the worst conditions in the country on Tuesday.

Things don't look to be improving much on Wednesday. But while we're all very aware of the smoke and haze present in our air, why doesn't it look like the smoke in the northeast from a few weeks ago? And why doesn't it smell like normal wildfire smoke? There are a few reasons for that.      

The Color/Smell

The smoke is traveling a LONG distance from the fires in Quebec, so a lot of the heavier bits of ash that hung in the air in New York, have fallen to the ground by the time they get to Michigan. That's why New York had a brown, almost orange color to it, but we don't see so much of that color in the air here. Instead, we're left with a hazy, gray-colored sky that still blocks out a lot of the sun's rays.

So that explains the color, but what about the smell? There's still something off about it.


So why does the smoke smell more like burning plastic? It's because the sun is taking the "campfire" smell out of it, and leaving the volatile chemicals that are still a result of burning wood.  

The smoke is still very prevalent though, and continue to block out so much of the suns rays, that you can look directly at it (at times) through the smoke. Though, I'm sure there are optometrists who will HIGHLY discourage it still.

Conditions are expected to improve later in the week, but for now, still aren't great. If you have sensitivities to air pollutants, or you have some breathing issues, you're asked to stay indoors as much as possible with your windows and doors closed. Hopefully, this smoke moves off soon.

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Jim O'Leary's mom and cow were a part of the legend of the Great Chicago Fire. His mansion still stands in Chicago.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Mrs. O'Leary's cow, Mrs. O'Leary's son's mansion still stands on West Garfield Boulevard in Chicago and was for sale, Jim O'Leary ran a saloon and gambling establishment, on Halsted Street.