It’s time to get out your N95 masks. New York City and much of the eastern United States ended Tuesday and spent Wednesday under thick orange fog and the acrid smell of wood fires. “Air quality has collapsed across much of the Northeast as smoke from Canada’s wildfires moves south,” the National Weather Service said Tuesday.
The air quality index, which is usually good in a city surrounded by water, has actually deteriorated to levels considered “unhealthy,” according to government site AirNow. A polluted air warning was in effect until Wednesday, but the situation continued to deteriorate throughout the day, with the particulate matter measurement index falling into the dark red to 413 out of 500 by the afternoon of that Wednesday. A level that AirNow describes as “dangerous”.
Outdoor school activities were halted and New York’s mayor urged the city’s 8 million residents to stay home or wear masks outdoors. Flights to LaGuardia Airport were also canceled due to poor visibility, the FAA said.
While there have been repeated episodes of polluted air in San Francisco and California on the west coast of the USA in recent years, the situation on the east coast, where many cities are affected by “smog”, is completely unusual. And now also in the capital Washington.
According to the national agency, there are still more than 400 fires in Canada and more than 2,200 fires have been recorded since the beginning of the year. They have already burned more than 3.8 million hectares, and major Canadian cities like Ottawa and Montreal are also coughing up “smog.”
Fires could also spread to certain American states. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are particularly vulnerable right now to the risk of “dry lightning” that could spark fires, the Storm Prediction Center said. The area has been placed on “critical” alert.
Starting in early May, it was Alberta in western Canada that faced an unprecedented series of fires for the first time. Before they reached the east of the country, in the province of Nova Scotia and now Quebec.
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