Smoke from the wildfires in Canada drifted into the United States on Wednesday, leading to extremely poor air quality across much of the eastern United States, with warnings in effect from New England to the southeast. In all, more than 100 million Americans have been impacted by air quality alerts, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
In fact, New York City’s air quality was the worst Tuesday morning among major cities in the world, according to IQAir, an air quality monitoring website. As of Wednesday afternoon, IQAir said New York City’s pollution was the fourth worst in the world, behind New Delhi, India; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Toronto.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the city’s air quality index Wednesday climbed to 484 on a scale of 500, more than double the level reached on Tuesday night. He said the city’s air quality health advisory has been extended through Thursday evening.
Due to unhealthy air, Major League Baseball postponed Wednesday night games in New York and Philadelphia. It is the first such postponement since September 2020, when two games between the Seattle Mariners and the San Francisco Giants were moved from Seattle to San Francisco due to smoke from a fire.
Also, New York Governor Kathy Hochultweeted On Wednesday that the state is making 1 million N95 masks available to the public due to continued poor air quality from the Canadian wildfires.
“We live in the age of extreme weather. Last summer, New York experienced extremely dry conditions and we had fires all over the state,” Hochul said. “As we continue our fight against climate change, we must recognize that this is a new reality for which we must be prepared.”
Poor air quality Wednesday even reached as far south as Atlanta, where the National Weather Service said, “especially sensitive groups could be affected in northern Georgia.”
“As many people in the Midwest and East Coast are learning right now, smoke from wildfires can travel very long distances and impact large populations,” said Sara Adar, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. To best protect health, people should avoid spending too much time outdoors right now, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with heart or lung disease,” he said.
More than 100 million people affected by air quality alerts
According to EPA spokeswoman Shayla R. Powell, the The EPA estimates that “more than 100 million people are impacted today by air quality alerts, ranging from Code Orange (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) and higher. This area includes much of the northeastern United States extend from Philadelphia to Chicago in the West and Atlanta in the South West.
“We expect air quality in this area to be affected predominantly by Canadian wildfires, although more localized pollution emissions and meteorology may also play a role,” Powell said.
Smoking causes problems for air travel in New York
The Federal Aviation Administration had halted all inbound flights into New York’s LaGuardia Airport early Wednesday afternoon due to smoke from the fires, but lifted that restriction in the late afternoon. However, the delays remained at the airport.
Meanwhile, at Newark’s Liberty Airport, the airport reported that poor visibility was leading to a ground stop for some inbound flights.
The FAA also said the extreme haze of forest fire smoke lingering in the northeastern US due to the Canadian wildfires could delay flights through Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC, CNN reported. .
Residents of the northeastern United States have urged restrictions on outdoor activities
Among the northeastern parts, the The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control on Wednesday issued a code red air quality alert that will be in effect statewide through Thursday.
And neighboring states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, will be subject to a Code Orange, according to WPVI-TV. Warnings may change as smoke moves through the northeast region.
But for now, experts including Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole told the station Wednesday that residents should try to limit their outdoor exposure.
“These are very fine particulates that can be breathed very deep into the lungs and can damage the lungs,” Bettigole said. “Sometimes it can get into the bloodstream.”
A similar warning has been heard in the Washington, DC-Maryland-Virginia area, Hannah Winnant, Arlington County assistant director of emergency management, told WJLA-TV Wednesday.
Winnant advised residents to stay home if possible.
“People who are most at risk from poor air quality, such as people with asthma, the elderly or very young children, should definitely consider staying indoors,” Winnant told the station. “But we recommend it to everyone.”
Wildfire, smoke map for USA and Canada
A brownish haze descends over New York City
Foggy skies blanketed New York City Wednesday afternoon as smoke permeated the city’s air. For some New Yorkers, poor air quality has meant the return of masks and a return to the pandemic era.
From the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, where the Manhattan skyline is usually easily seen, the towers were barely visible through the brown haze. It felt more like a foggy morning than an early June afternoon.
Mikael Haxby, 43, was walking his dog towards the seafront, with a medical mask tied to his mouth and nose. He said he had a burning sensation in his throat. I’m somehow used to wearing the mask,” he said. It’s more like the air quality is bad. He said his son would have recess Wednesday, as all the schools in the city had announced.
Many more remained maskless, however, and some wore the chin strap that former Governor Andrew Cuomo once chastised during his daily pandemic press briefings.
Amidst the haze, the public gathering places were mostly empty. A popular outdoor brunch restaurant, usually crowded even on weekdays, seemed deserted. McCarren Park, home of the neighborhood track, had only a few runners.
“I was actually coughing,” Deborah Gross, 29, said from behind her white N-95 mask. She was late to meet a friend because she had to stop at a drugstore to buy a mask, a move that reminded her of riding out the pandemic in the city. I saw people wearing masks on the street,” he said, “and I was like, “Whoa, throwback.”
How long will the poor air quality last?
The weather service said the wind pattern that allowed smoke and hazy conditions to be seen in the New York City area could continue for the next few days.
Smoky air will drift west over the next couple of days, AccuWeather said.
Worst smoke and related air quality is expected to move west across the Great Lakes and portions of the Ohio Valley and interior northeast including the cities of Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Detroit on Thursday and Friday,” said Dan DePodwin , director of forecasting operations at AccuWeather.
Air quality alerts are indicators that the air is unsafe for some people to breathe. Alarms are triggered by a number of factors including the detection of fine particle pollution known as PM 2.5 which can irritate the lungs.
The pollution is detected by a system of ground monitors that constantly take measurements of the amount of chemicals and particles in the air, said Susan Anenberg, professor and chair of the department of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University.
As much of the northeast is blanketed in a haze of smoke descending from hundreds of Canadian wildfires, people are being told on Wednesday to stay indoors as much as possible.
It’s not that easy for people suffering from homelessness, advocates say.
For our neighbors who live outside, it’s impossible for them to escape, said Jesse Rabinowitz, senior manager for policy and advocacy at the nonprofit Miriams Kitchen in the nation’s capital.
Some of the cities hardest hit by the unhealthy air quality caused by the wildfires also experience some of the highest homelessness rates in the country.
Parts of New York City and Washington, DC, fluctuated between a red and purple air quality designation during the day, according to airnow.gov. This means that the air is unhealthy for the general population and people are advised to cut back on physical activity and consider going indoors. School children were kept inside for recess. Anyone with additional health risks should move all of their activities indoors, officials said.
There are hundreds of our neighbors who have no choice but to stay out, which must force us to end homelessness and ensure everyone has the housing they need to thrive, Rabinowitz said.
‘I can taste the air’
Folks in the eastern US and Canada were coping as best they could with the smoke-filled air. I can taste the air, Dr. Ken Strumpf said in a Facebook post from Syracuse, New York, which was wrapped in a pall of amber. The smoke, he later said by phone, also made him a little dizzy.
In Baltimore, where officials have warned residents to stay indoors whenever possible, Debbie Funk sported a blue surgical mask as she and husband, Jack Hughes, took their daily walk. I went out this morning and it was like a puff of smoke, said Funk, who said the pair had considered skipping the walk but wanted some exercise.
In Montreal, Quebec, Canada, said Zachary Kamel, the smoke was insane yesterday. I had to close the window because the fresh air smelled only of bonfires.”
United States air quality index map
Contributed by: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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