NEW YORK (AP) — On air quality maps, the color purple indicates the most serious situation. In reality, it is dangerously dense fog that disrupts daily life for millions of people across the United States and Canada, obscuring the skyline of cities and tinting the sky orange.
And with little change in the weather forecast, smoke from the fires in Quebec and Nova Scotia and the delivery of fine particle clouds as far as North Carolina should continue through Thursday, and possibly into the weekend.
This is at least one more day in a dystopian environment that has driven players off baseball diamonds, brought actors off Broadway stages, delayed thousands of flights, and led to a reappearance of masks and telecommuting, while Concerns about the health effects of prolonged exposure to poor-quality air have increased.
The system behind the Great Canadian-American Smoky Cloud — a low pressure system over Maine and Nova Scotia — “will probably stick around for at least the next few days,” said Bryan Ramsey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“Conditions are likely to remain unhealthy, at least until the wind direction changes or the fires are out,” he added. “Since the fires are active, and they are really large, they are likely to continue for weeks. So that everything will depend on the change of wind”.
In the eastern United States, authorities warned residents to stay indoors and limit outdoor activity Thursday as well, expanding “code red” alerts for poor air quality for the third straight day, while forecasts show winds will continue to push smoky air south.
In Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser has ordered schools to cancel outdoor recess and field trips Thursday. In suburban Philadelphia, authorities have set up a shelter for homeless people to take shelter from the smoke.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state will distribute one million N95 masks — those recommended at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic — at state facilities including 400,000 in New York City.
The more than 400 active fires in Canada have displaced 20,000 people. The United States sent more than 600 firefighters and equipment to the country to combat the flames, and other countries also lent their help.
In a telephone conversation on Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked President Joe Biden for his support, the Canadian president’s office explained, adding that the two “recognized the need to work together to address the devastating impact of climate change”.
Canadian authorities say the country is suffering the worst fire season in its history. Started ahead of schedule due to drier ground than usual and picked up fast. The smoke from the fires has affected the United States since last month, but the situation has worsened with the recent fires in Quebec, where on Wednesday there were around a hundred that burned out of control.
Gillies reported from Toronto.