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Air quality is slowly improving across the Northeast compared to earlier in the week, but more smoke could be on the way for the region. AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva said that most of the Midwest and Northeast will see a break from the wildfire smoke into early next week as a storm system moves in from the West. The storm will shift the direction of the wind and spread some much-needed rain across the region, which will help improve the air quality and sweep away the smoke that originated from wildfires in Quebec.
However, winds may once again blow from the north in the wake of the impending storm, which could spread more smoke across the Midwest and Northeast. “While the air quality is likely to not be as bad as what was experienced this week due to the rainfall early next week, poor air quality can once again be a problem for millions across the Northeast,” DaSilva said. Click here for more details about the smoke and air quality forecast for the Midwest and Northeast.
This was the worst wildfire smoke outbreak in the U.S. in 20 years.
AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline masked up and went outside on Friday morning to talk with New Jersey residents about the recent air quality. Angeline said one woman was finally taking her dog on a long walk now that the air quality has improved. Another man, who lives in Jersey City, told Angeline that he couldn’t see Manhattan across the Hudson River on Wednesday.
Angeline said now that the air quality has improved a bit, she isn’t seeing as many people wearing masks. “It’s still important that if you’re a sensitive group to wear a mask outdoors,” said Angeline. “I’m a COVID-19 long hauler, and I still worry about my lungs...so I wanted to make sure that I could wear a mask when I am outside.” Even when the air quality level is considered “fair,” long-term exposure can still pose a risk to sensitive groups. “If you do have outdoor plans, keep it turned to AccuWeather.com/airquality for the latest numbers,” said Angeline.
As major cities in the Northeast embrace low air quality levels on Friday, winds have brought wildfire smoke to portions of the Midwest. As of Friday afternoon, Cleveland registered an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 107, which is considered “unhealthy.” Sensitive individuals in Cleveland will immediately feel health effects from the air quality, while healthy individuals will experience difficulty breathing and throat irritation after prolonged exposure. In Minneapolis, air quality levels also registered as unhealthy on Friday afternoon. The AQI was 112 in Minneapolis. Air quality levels in Minneapolis and Cleveland are expected to remain at the “unhealthy” level through at least Saturday afternoon.
Air quality levels across the Midwest on Friday, June 9. (AccuWeather)
Following a significant improvement in air quality across New York, Belmont Stakes Racing Festival organizers announced on Friday morning that live racing will resume at Belmont Park Friday afternoon. Belmont Park is located nearly 15 miles east of New York City in Elmont, New York. As of Friday morning, air quality levels in Elmont were “excellent,” with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 13.
“In addition to the resumption of live racing, both Belmont and Saratoga re-opened for training earlier [Friday] morning,” Pat McKenna, communications vice president of the New York Racing Association (NYRA), said in a statement. The Saratoga Racetrack is located in Saratoga Springs, New York, which is about 30 minutes north of Albany. As of Friday morning, air quality levels in Saratoga Springs were “fair,” with an AQI of 22.
“Moving forward, NYRA will continue to actively monitor air quality conditions and forecasts to ensure the environment remains safe for racing participants and fans,” McKenna wrote.
Racehorse Forte out for his workout during Belmont Stakes week at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York on June 7, 2023. (Photo by John Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday RM via Getty Images)
Data from Plume Labs shows how the wildfire smoke caused air quality to deteriorate in three major cities in the Northeast this week. Air quality levels in New York City and Philadelphia spiked to their highest levels on Wednesday. In Washington, D.C., the highest air quality index was reported early Thursday morning. Both Philadelphia and New York City held the unwanted title as cities with the world’s worst air quality for a time earlier this week.
New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. air quality readings for the week of June 3-9.
Air quality levels are beginning to improve across the Northeast on Friday, but smoke from the Canadian wildfires continues to linger and create hazy skies. The smoke has been over the region in varying amounts for nearly a week. The below timelapse from NASA shows how black carbon particles spread across eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. from June 3–8. An anticipated change in the weather pattern is expected to allow winds to direct the smoke back into Canada in the coming days.
Air quality levels have significantly improved in New York City since Wednesday afternoon. As of Friday morning, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was at 36 in New York City’s Central Park. The “fair” air quality level is a significant improvement from the “very unhealthy” and “dangerous” levels it was at on Wednesday. Although according to AccuWeather forecasters, this weekend could bring another downturn in the air quality across the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Air quality levels in New York City on June 9, 2023. (AccuWeather)
Photos of New York City shrouded in wildfire smoke this week surprised younger residents of the city, who had never seen the city's skyline dimmed in such a way. Older residents remembered seeing the city disappear during major, deadly smog events that killed hundreds of people between 1950 and 1970, the year the Environmental Protection Agency was born.
Smog obscures the view of the Chrysler Building from the Empire State Building in New York City on Nov. 20, 1953. World-Telegram photo by Walter Albertin.
According to CNN, there has been a significant increase in demand for air purifiers and masks this week as air quality levels have reached dangerous levels across some of the biggest cities in the Northeast. “As of Thursday morning, air filters were the top gainers in sales for tools and home improvement products on Amazon over the past 24 hours. A Levoit humidifier was the third biggest sales gainer. N95 and KN95 masks also spiked in Amazon sales rankings,” CNN reported. Click here to read more.
The Manhattan skyline is seen across the Hudson river as a man wearing a mask walks along the waterfront in West New York, New Jersey, on June 08, 2023, as smoke haze from Canadian wildfires blankets the area. (Photo by Leonardo Munoz / AFP)
The thick smoke that blanketed part of the Northeast this week is making some residents re-think their current housing situation. Search inquiries for the phrase “sell my home fast” spiked 2,504% on Google on Wednesday in New York, according to analysis by FindStorageFast. And that wasn’t the only thing residents were looking up in response to the smoke. According to Media Decision, online searches in New York for the term “air purifier” was up 2,418% compared to last week.
People who do list their homes for sale are likely to see an improvement in the air quality before they close with a seller. AccuWeather meteorologists say that the air quality is forecast to improve across New York, and most of the region, by early next week as winds shift and a storm system moves over the Midwest and Northeast.
The state of New York remained under an air quality health advisory Thursday evening as the “unprecedented” smoke from raging wildfires continues to impact areas from New York to Washington, D.C. Basil Seggos, commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), told AccuWeather Assistant Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Geoff Cornish that the amount of smoke seen in the state was “unlike anything we’ve seen.”
To find a similar event, Seggos told Cornish that he had to look back over 50 years ago to when smog in the New York City area led to the deaths of about 168 people. “What it [the smoke] has impacted from New York State, now all the way down to Washington, D.C., there hasn’t been anything like this impacting such a large population in decades,” Seggos said. The next similar event was in 2002 when wildfires in the Canadian provinces impacted New York, but he added that “it was nothing like this,” as smoke from the 2002 event wasn’t as widespread or persistent as the smoke over the past few days. Watch the full interview below.
AccuWeather spoke with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation about the troubles caused by the smoke of Canada’s wildfires.
Will smoke be around throughout the weekend? It’s a vital question for many who might have outdoor plans, but the answer may vary by location. Smoke will persist in some areas into the early part of the weekend, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. However, a stagnant weather pattern in place across the Northeast, which has driven atmospheric winds delivering smoke from the Canadian wildfires, will slowly begin to migrate eastward into the weekend. As it does, smoke conditions will reduce from west to east across the northeastern U.S. However, patches of reduced air quality and associated health impacts will continue in some spots, especially early in the weekend.
Wildfire smoke across the U.S. as of 9 p.m. ET Thursday. (AccuWeather)
A blanket of smoke over New York City led to the cancellation of several Broadway shows on Wednesday evening. Among those that were canceled were “Hamilton” and “Camelot,” according to The Associated Press. And it was a last-minute decision for some. Organizers from “Hamilton” canceled the show less than two hours before the 8 p.m. ET curtain call because so many cast members called in sick. “Tonight’s performance of Hamilton will not go on as scheduled,” said a post on the show’s social media page. “The hazardous air quality in New York City has made it impossible for a number of our artists to perform this evening.” According to organizers, the show is expected to resume on Thursday evening. According to The New York Times, not every Broadway show was canceled on Wednesday evening. Broadway’s theater owners and producers decided to let shows that could continue with their performances to take place. Thanks to upgrades in air filtration systems from the COVID-19 pandemic, many theaters on Broadway were able to reduce the number of pollutants filtered inside. Additionally, Shakespeare in the Park canceled its Thursday and Friday performances of “Hamlet” on Central Park’s outdoor stage, the AP reported.
The White House has postponed its Pride event that was scheduled to take place on the South Lawn on Thursday evening due to the wildfire smoke, according to Senior White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell. President Joe Biden was set to host the largest White House Pride Month celebration in history on Thursday, according to Reuters. Thousands of people, including singer Betty Who and Baltimore DJ Queen HD, were invited to the celebration of LGBTQIA+ families, Reuters reported. According to O’Donnell, the event has been moved to Saturday.
New York City Public Schools announced that they will have a remote-instruction day on Friday, June 9, due to poor air quality. Students had the day off from school on Thursday due to the district-wide staff development day. All staff were instructed to work remote on Thursday, and will also be remote again on Friday. According to AccuWeather meteorologists, the air quality is forecast to remain at an “unhealthy” level through at least lunchtime on Friday.
Air Quality Index levels remained at unhealthy levels in several major cities on Thursday afternoon, according to Plume Labs data by AccuWeather. The AQI had reached 128, or unhealthy levels, in New York City after the smoke had turned the sky orange in a Martian-like scene. Many New Yorkers like Lorraine Boreyko donned masks once again to attempt to mitigate any health impacts from the smoke. “I’ve been here for like 40 years and I haven’t seen anything like this,” she told AFPTV. “The air quality is just terrible.” Jack Write told the news organization that he had developed a cough that had persisted throughout the day, and while he had stopped smoking 50 years ago, the cough was similar to the one he would have when he smoked.
Other places in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic had reached “very unhealthy” air quality levels. In Philadelphia, the AQI had reached 158, and Newark reached an AQI of 159. It was Washington, D.C., that saw some of the higher levels during the afternoon, however, with an AQI of 238, according to data from Plume Labs.
The smoky photos taken of New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. this week are the latest examples of wildfires transforming well-known skylines into otherworldly views akin to scenes from sci-fi movies.
On Sept. 9, 2020, thick wildfire smoke shrouded the Golden Gate Bridge and turned the sky over San Francisco orange. The sight was similar to the pictures from Wednesday of the George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, New Jersey, with New York City. At the start of 2020, Australia made global headlines due to significant fires burning across the country, but it was not the only time in recent history that veils of thick smoke darkened the country. On Oct. 17, 2013, the sky over Sydney turned orange, which made it difficult for residents and tourists to see the city's famous opera house.
Flip through the gallery below to see more shocking images of wildfire smoke from around the world in recent years.
As of Thursday morning, the amount of land engulfed in wildfires in Quebec was about the size of Delaware, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson. Smoke from the wildfires burning in Quebec was the driver behind poor air quality across the Northeast this week. Anderson says that Quebec and Nova Scotia have set new seasonal records for the amount of land burned during a wildfire season.
“For Canada, the amount of acres burned through early June has already surpassed the 10-year average for an entire season,” said Anderson. “We are not necessarily seeing more fires with climate change, but larger fires that are consuming vast amounts of area.”
AccuWeather Canada Expert Brett Anderson explains the incredible start of Canada’s fire season and the future for the northeastern U.S.
Smog caused by Canadian wildfires shrouded New York City on June 7, forcing residents to wear face masks and obscuring the city’s skyline.
A thick, orange, haze transformed the skyline of New York City on Wednesday. Millions of people in the city were met with some of the worst air quality in the world. “It’s generated a kind of a cough all day long, I quit smoking 50 years ago, but it’s kind of a cough I would have when I smoked,” Jack Wright, a retired lawyer in New York City said to AFP on Wednesday.
As people walked around the city, they masked up, protecting themselves from the harmful wildfire smoke. “We had to wear our masks on because of the air quality, to make sure we’re okay,” Charmaine Franco, a home and health aid in New York City told AFP on Wednesday. “It makes my eyes water…you can’t stay out for too long.” According to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, 400,000 N95 masks will be distributed at New York City metro stations, bus lines, state parks and the Javits Center on Thursday.
“I’ve been here for 40 years, I have not seen anything like this, the air quality is just terrible,” Lorraine Boreyko, a retired New York City resident told AFP.
Thursday afternoon's Major League Baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals in Washington D.C. has been postponed due to the poor air quality conditions, the Nationals announced. The game will be made up on Thursday, June 22. As of Thursday morning, the air quality at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. was at a “very unhealthy” level, with an Air Quality Index of 189. As of Thursday morning, the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees game is still set to take place at Yankee Stadium on Thursday evening.
Skies across the northeastern United States were orange and hazy as smoke from wildfires burning in Canada swept into the region on June 6.
On Wednesday, as a thick plume of wildfire smoke settled across New York City and other cities, the skyline disappeared behind an orange apocalyptic-looking haze. But why did the sky turn orange and not gray or white or some other color?
It all has to do with how the sun’s light, or wavelengths, are scattered in the atmosphere. Sunlight contains all the colors of the rainbow. As the sunlight passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, particles and molecules in the air reflect specific wavelengths. The wavelengths that aren’t reflected are the colors we see in the sky. On a clear weather day, shorter wavelengths like green, blue and purple aren’t reflected, which makes the sky look blue during the day. When there are a bunch of smoke particles in the sky, those shorter wavelengths get reflected, but longer wavelengths, such as red, orange and yellow, don’t. Because of that, wildfire smoke can give the sky an eerie orange tint.
Dr. James McDonald, the acting commissioner of health for New York state, joined AccuWeather Early on Thursday morning to discuss the ongoing concerns about the wildfire smoke that remains entrenched over the state. McDonald noted that the air quality levels are historic in the state, and the only locations with “decent” air quality Thursday were in the Adirondack Mountains. McDonald also said there hasn’t been an increase in hospitalizations yet anywhere in the state, but he said it’s something health officials are monitoring, and he’s "concerned about it.” Watch the full interview below.
Air quality alerts continue, with dangerous hazy air remaining a health concern for millions. Dr. James McDonald explains the air quality situation in New York.
Wildfires in Quebec have delivered one of the most intense outbreaks of smoke the northeastern United States has ever experienced. A large potent plume of smoke could be seen spreading across New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut from satellites in space. AccuWeather meteorologists say smoke is expected to drift farther south on Thursday.
A persistent low-pressure system off the coast of Atlantic Canada is helping to steer the smoke southward into the U.S., rather than out to sea.
Smoke from the Canadian wildfires can be seen on satellite imagery. (NASA)
The smoke isn’t just spreading over the U.S., but also over parts of Greenland, Iceland and Norway, according to the Norwegian Climate and Environmental Research Institute (NILU).
According to Nikolaos Evangeliou, a senior scientist at NILU, residents in Norway will be able to smell the smoke on Thursday as the skies turn hazy, but he doesn’t expect the concentration of smoke to pose any health risks.
Very unhealthy air quality levels are being reported in Philadelphia Thursday morning. For a brief time, the City of Brotherly Love even had the worst air quality in the world late Wednesday night, according to CBS Philadelphia.
On Thursday morning, the Philadelphia Department of Health said a Code Maroon was in effect, the highest level of its six-tier scale for air quality. A Code Maroon indicates a "health warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected," according to the city's Department of Health.
The Philadelphia Public School District issued a letter to families on Thursday that recommended that students wear masks to and from school. School district officials also said outdoor activities or field trips will be moved indoors or rescheduled.
As the Canadian wildfire smoke continues to significantly reduce visibility across the Northeast, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a ground stop to flights bound for Philadelphia International Airport and a ground delay at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.
Departures from Philadelphia are grounded due to low visibility and all arrivals into the Philadelphia airport from the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Ohio are grounded at their origin airport, the FAA wrote in an update.
Passengers check an information board after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned travelers to expect flights to be delayed at LaGuardia airport in New York City as smoke from a series of wildfires in Canada limited visibility on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Just before 8 a.m. ET, the ground stop was lifted at LaGuardia airport. Instead, the FAA issued a ground delay. Delays at LaGuardia were just short of an hour on Thursday morning, according to the FAA. The low visibility from the wildfire smoke will likely continue to impact arriving and departing flights from LaGuardia airport through the rest of the day on Thursday. Passengers are urged to check the status of their flight throughout the day on Thursday.
Average delays at Newark Liberty International Airport are upwards of 30 minutes. Delays are expected to continue into Thursday afternoon.
“Reduced visibility from wildfire smoke will continue to impact air travel today,” the FAA wrote in an update. “We will likely need to take steps to manage the flow of traffic safely into New York City, DC, Philadelphia and Charlotte.”
More than 46 million Americans are under an air quality alert as smoke from the Canadian wildfires continues to pour into the eastern United States. Air quality alerts stretch from upstate New York to South Carolina and as far west as Illinois. This is the third straight day that some cities, such as New York City, Albany, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut, have been under an air quality alert.
A dense smoke advisory has been issued for offshore areas near New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. Just like on Wednesday, thick smoke is expected to reduce visibility on waterways off parts of the East Coast on Thursday to 1 nautical mile (1.151 miles) or less.
In Washington D.C. a “Code Purple” air quality alert was issued. “Code Purple means that all groups should stay indoors as much as possible,” the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management wrote in a post. “Those that must work outside should reduce work outside if possible, and if not wear a mask (N95 or K95 equivalent).”
Like in much of the Northeast, air quality levels in Washington, D.C. are at unhealthy levels Thursday morning. The wildfire smoke pouring into the Northeast is making it difficult to spot some of the iconic monuments around the city such as the Lincoln Memorial. Air quality in the area is currently worse Thursday morning around the district than it was at this time yesterday.
A code purple air quality alert has been issued for Washington, D.C. Thursday; a code red was in effect on Wednesday. Residents are being encouraged to stay inside as much as possible. For those who need to spend time outdoors, wearing an N95 mask is recommended.
Widespread, hazardous air quality over the Northeast will slowly begin to improve on Thursday. However, some of the densest smoke may begin to be directed farther to the west, including locations such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit. Although air quality will no longer be hazardous by Thursday night along I-95, it will take until Friday or Friday night for significant improvement in some locations.
As wildfires burn in Quebec, Canada, much of the smoke is drifting down into portions of the U.S., spiking air quality levels. “The combination of a stalled high pressure system over the northern Plains and a stationary low pressure system of Atlantic Canada has been producing a persistent steering wind from north to south across the region, which has been sending thick plumes of smoke southward into the Northeast, Middle Atlantic and Ohio Valley,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. “Since these fires are much closer than the Alberta fires, some of the smoke closer to the ground is able to reach into the Northeast U.S., leading to hazardous air quality.”
Over 150 fires were burning in south-central Quebec as of Wednesday afternoon, a majority of which were not contained. According to Anderson, many of the fires were started by lightning almost a week ago after the region had faced an unusually dry and warm May. He added that the fires will likely continue to burn over Quebec into the summer as they are in remote, heavily wooded areas, and most of Canada’s fire fighting efforts were focused on saving homes and properties, most of which are farther away from the bigger fires. "So," he said, "get used to these episodes of smoke and haze through the summer.”
A satellite image of the Northeast on June 7, 2023, showing thick wildfire smoke over eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and portions of New York. (NOAA/GOES-EAST)
Meteorologists typically use satellites to get a bird’s-eye view of the weather happening on Earth, but this week, it has been a helpful tool for tracking smoke that originated from wildfires in Quebec, Canada. On Wednesday afternoon, the thickest smoke could be seen over eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Long Island, while lighter smoke was dispersed across much of the region. However, part of New England was smoke-free as a storm spread rain and clouds over the region with winds directing the smoke away from Maine, northern New Hampshire and northern Vermont.
One million N95 masks will be made available across New York on Thursday morning, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday evening. She added that 400,000 would be distributed at metro stations, bus lines, state parks and the Javits Center. Another 600,000 will be available from the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services for local governments to pick up. New York City had been ranked as the city with the worst air quality in the world Wednesday afternoon, according to Plume Labs by AccuWeather. The city had reached an AQI of 304 earlier Wednesday afternoon.
“New Yorkers: The best way to stay safe right now is to stay indoors. We highly recommend outdoor activities be postponed or canceled as we wait for safer air quality conditions,” Hochul warned over Twitter. “If you must be outside for significant periods, wear a high-quality mask to reduce exposure.”
On the newest episode of AccuWeather's Everything Under the Sun podcast, AccuWeather meteorologist Dean DeVore is joined by Dr. Rupa Basu, a research scientist and epidemiologist with the California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to talk about a recent study about increases in stagnant air and more. Also, AccuWeather meteorologists Dave Dombek and Paul Pastelok join the chat to talk about how air quality can affect forecasting, especially during peak fire season.
The number of acres burned in Quebec by the same fires filling the skies of the U.S. with thick smoke has far surpassed record-breaking totals. As of Wednesday, the wildfires have burned over 1.1 million acres in Quebec, breaking the record amount of 865,000 acres burned in 1991, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson. There are currently over 150 fires burning in south-central Quebec, many of which, Anderson notes, are not currently contained. A large portion of these fires were started by lightning nearly a week ago. This May has been unusually dry and warm for the region, creating hazardous conditions for a forested area prone to fire. However, Anderson added, the fires are usually not this widespread or early in the season.
The unhealthy air quality around parts of the Northeast has forced Major League Baseball to postpone two games that were scheduled for Wednesday evening. The Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers were slated to play at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday. However, that game has now been rescheduled for Thursday at the same time. In New York City, where the air quality was the worst in the world for a time Wednesday, the Yankees’ game against the Chicago White Sox has been rescheduled for Thursday. That game will start at 4:05 p.m. and will be the first of a single-admission doubleheader, the Yankees announced. Both the Phillies and Yankees played their home games on Tuesday night despite the smoky skies, however, the air quality was not as poor then as it became on Wednesday.
New York Yankees' Clarke Schmidt pitches to Chicago White Sox's Tim Anderson during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in New York. Smoke from Canadian wildfires has traveled into the United States, resulting in a number of air quality alerts issued since May. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
AccuWeather meteorologists say a long-anticipated weather pattern change is about to unfold. A brewing storm that is set to bring much-needed rain to the Midwest and Northeast could also help push the smoke back into Canada. But that won’t be until late this coming weekend and early next week.
New York City and areas in New England could see some improvement in air quality Thursday and Friday, as a shift in the winds will direct the smoke toward southern Ontario, Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, conditions could worsen around Toronto, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit. By the weekend, air quality could decline once again over the mid-Atlantic and New England as winds send smoke farther to the east.
“A significant shift in the weather pattern is expected by early next week, as a storm may form over the Midwest,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. “[This] will completely shift the winds and force the smoke back to the north in Canada.”
AccuWeather's current Air Quality Index map as of 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 7, 2023.
The smoke pouring over the northeastern United States has caused air quality to plummet across the region, including in several major cities such as Philadelphia. AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter said that 57 million people across nine states and Washington D.C. are experiencing ‘unhealthy’ air quality. When the air quality falls to these levels, even healthy individuals may experience difficulty breathing and throat irritation when spending time outdoors. “AccuWeather estimates that breathing the polluted air in the worst impacted areas of the Northeast for several hours can result in breathing in the same level of harmful air as smoking 5-10 cigarettes,” Porter added.
New York City was ranked as the city with the worst air quality in the world on Wednesday afternoon, local time, according to Plume Labs by AccuWeather. The city had reached an AQI of 304 early Wednesday afternoon — far surpassing the AQI of Delhi, India, which had a maximum AQI of 199 in the last 24 hours. An AQI over 300 is considered “hazardous,” the most extreme rating on the U.S. AQI scale.
Some of the worst air quality levels in the U.S. on Wednesday were found in New York City and New Haven, Connecticut. There, air quality levels spiked to an AQI of 273, which is considered “very unhealthy.” Philadelphia reported a maximum AQI of 223.
A man talks on his phone as he looks through the haze at the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Intense Canadian wildfires are blanketing the northeastern U.S. in a dystopian haze, turning the air acrid, the sky yellowish gray and prompting warnings for vulnerable populations to stay inside. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
The George Washington Bridge appeared to disappear into an eerie orange cloud on Wednesday as wildfire smoke made it nearly impossible to see the New York City skyline across the Hudson River from Fort Lee, New Jersey. A weather station in Central Park reported visibility under a mile for several hours on Wednesday while the air quality hovered at dangerous levels.
The scene resembled the surface of Mars, although images captured by NASA’s Perseverance Rover show a rockier environment — and a sky that is not nearly as hazy as the sky over the Northeast on Wednesday.
The rocky surface of Mars captured by NASA's Perseverance Rover on Feb. 17, 2022. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)
The thick wildfire smoke hanging over the Northeast isn’t just making breathing difficult, it is also complicating travel across the region. Temporary ground stops have been issued at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and LaGuardia Airport in New York City due to low visibility amid the smoky conditions, according to the FAA. At 1 p.m. EDT, smoke was reducing the visibility at Newark to half a mile, meaning pilots on one end of the runway could not see the other end of the runway located 2 miles away. Hundreds of flights have been delayed at the airports, according to FlightAware, with more delays and cancellations likely through Wednesday evening as the poor air quality persists.
Wildfire smoke contains very tiny particulate matter, or 2.5 micrometers in diameter — the tiniest pollutant, about 1/20th the width of a human hair, yet also the most dangerous. When inhaled, it can travel deep into lung tissue and enter the bloodstream, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
When the result of burning trees and grass is inhaled, a person is breathing in more than just smoke and ashes. Toxins and fumes are added to the harmful mix when other things burn, like plastic from house fires. “If you’re close to the fire, you’ll be exposed to carbon monoxide, which poisons your red blood cells and interferes with oxygen uptake, [as well as] nitrogen dioxide, which dissolves in the airway lining fluid to generate a powerful acid that hurts small airways,” said Dr. Brian Christman, a volunteer spokesperson for the American Lung Association. Of particular concern is the inhalation of the tiny particulate matter, Christman said. “These are small enough to be carried into the alveoli, the tiny air sacs of the lung,” he said. This can significantly increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.
There are steps you can take to reduce your exposure, including:
•Remain inside with doors and windows shut to keep the polluted air outside.
•Drivers are also advised to keep windows closed and set the air conditioning to recirculate mode.
•Wear an N95 or KN95 mask. Dust masks are not recommended.
•Monitor local air quality reports.
•Use a HEPA air filter in your home to help reduce the risk of smoke exposure.
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