As more than 400 unchecked wildfires burn in Canada, smog continues to engulf communities in the Northeast U.S. on Wednesday and is expected to remain for several days.
The smell – and even taste – of a campfire overtook New York City this morning as commuters wore N95 masks per government recommendations. The air quality index there hovers around 180, according to AirNow.gov. a company that ranks air pollution throughout the world, air quality in the state was among the worst in the world on Tuesday night – typically, New York City’s rating does not rank in the top 3,000.
In comparison, Rappahannock County Park, Virginia – normally considered one of the country’s premiere stargazing sites – saw near-entirely obscured skies last night. But despite the visible effect, air quality ratings hovered around a healthy level at 43 Wednesday morning.
In New City, air quality is rated at 183 and rising. The New York State Department for Environmental Conservation has issued an air quality advisory for Rockland County, in addition to New York, Bronx, Kings, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Orange and Putnam counties through Wednesday at midnight. But smog conditions are expected to persist until at least Thursday.
People with heart or lung diseases, older adults and children were dissauded Wednesday from strenous or long-lasting outdoor activities. At the urging of Governor Kathy Hochul, schools throughout the state canceled outdoor activities and shut windows in light of the conditions.
“Out of an abundance of caution, due to diminished air quality levels across the state, physical education classes will remain indoors and field days and outdoor activities will be postponed,” the East Ramapo and Clarkstown school districts said in statements.
Amidst the atypical conditions, Rockland County 911 reported an “abundance of calls for outside smoke conditions within multiple fire districts,” according to a Facebook post from the Piermont Fire Department.
“The national weather service has issued a warning for poor air quality and for those individuals with breathing problems to remain indoors till further notice,” the department wrote.
In Canada, an estimated 26,000 people have been evacuated from their homes as of Monday with just hours to pack their essentials, according to a news conference held by Canadian Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair. Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed throughout the country to assist in firefighting efforts.
“The images that we have seen so far this season are some of the most severe ever witnessed in Canada,” Blair said, per the New York Times.
The New York State Department of Health has set up a free hotline at 800-535-1345 to inform residents of air quality conditions