Masks Return as Canadian Wildfire Smoke Moves South

Air quality is set to get worse as far south as Alabama
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2023 6:52 AM CDT
Wildfire Smoke Spreads Across US
A Southwest airliner approaches LaGuardia Airport in New York, Wednesday, June 7, 2023.   (AP Photo/David R. Martin)

New York City and other cities in the Northeast are continuing to experience disruptions to daily life from hazardous levels of air pollution from hundreds of wildfires burning in Canada—and the smoke is spreading across a wider area of the US. According to a National Weather Service update early Thursday, the wildfires smoke has triggered air quality alerts from parts of the Great Lakes/Ohio Valley to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and air quality is set to get worse as far south as Georgia and Alabama. The Philadelphia area currently has the worst air quality in the country, the New York Times reports. More:

  • Conditions "likely to remain unhealthy." US National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Ramsey says the weather system that brought the haze to the Northeast "will probably be hanging around at least for the next few days," the AP reports. "Conditions are likely to remain unhealthy, at least until the wind direction changes or the fires get put out,” Ramsey says. "Since the fires are raging—they’re really large—they’re probably going to continue for weeks. But it’s really just going be all about the wind shift."

  • People are getting sick. In New York City, where sporting events including baseball games were called off Wednesday and some schools canceled classes, hospitals have seen a rise in patients with respiratory illnesses, the Times reports. Authorities have urged residents, especially the most vulnerable, to stay inside.
  • New York is handing out free masks, Millions of people in Canada and the US have been advised to wear N95 masks if they have to go outside, the BBC reports. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday that the state will distribute a million masks Thursday. "This is a temporary situation. This is not COVID," she said.
  • "This is something we need to learn to prepare for." Scientists say this is a taste of things to come as the climate changes. Marshall Burke, an associate professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University, says there is a direct link between the fires and a heat event in Canada weeks ago, the Washington Post reports. "While these events have been really rare historically, I think all evidence suggests they’ll become less rare in the future as the climate warms," he says. "So this is something we need to learn to prepare for."
  • US is sending help. With more than 400 wildfires burning across Canada, including around 100 raging out of control in Quebec, the White House says the US has sent more than 600 firefighters and support personnel north of the border. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Wednesday that he had spoken to President Biden "about this critical support—and I thanked him for all the help Americans are providing as we continue to fight these devastating wildfires."
(Read more wildfires stories.)

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