Unhealthy air quality continues in New York City, Tri-State due to smoke from Canada wildfires
The thick, unhealthy haze that’s disrupting daily life for millions of people, blotting out skylines and turning skies orange continues for another day, but there are signs of improvement.
Health officials in New York City and across the Tri-State warned residents to stay inside and limit or avoid outdoor activities Thursday and Friday, extending air quality alerts as forecasts showed winds continuing to push smoke-filled air south from the wildfires in Canada.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state will make a million N95 masks – the kind prevalent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – available at state facilities, including 400,000 in New York City.
Tomorrow morning, one million N95 masks will be made available at state facilities.
600,000 will be available from @NYSDHSES stockpiles for local governments to pick up.
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) June 7, 2023
She also urged residents to stay put.
“You don’t need to go out and take a walk. You don’t need to push the baby in the stroller,” Hochul said Wednesday night. “This is not a safe time to do that.”
The message may be getting through. So far, officials said Wednesday, New York City did not see an uptick in 911 calls related to respiratory issues and cardiac arrests.
New York state health officials issued another air quality advisory for Long Island, New York City and Western New York for Friday.
Mayor Eric Adams called the Air Quality Alert an, “unprecedented event in our city and New Yorkers must take precautions” at a Wednesday press briefing.
He said the Air Quality Index hit 484 at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday – the max on the scale is 500.
Anything above 300 on the government’s air quality index is considered “hazardous.”
The city will not be conducting outdoor activities on Thursday and alternate side parking is suspended.
Adams said masks will be made available at police and fire stations.
Wildfires in Canada continue to severely impact the air quality. The FDNY will be distributing N-95 masks at several locations. Limit is 2 masks per person. For a full list of air quality tips and how to stay safe, head to https://t.co/mOBjaJb69r pic.twitter.com/5Tf6mhC1ZY
— FDNY (@FDNY) June 8, 2023
The fire stations distributing masks include:
-100 Duane Street
-207 West 77th Street
-720 Melrose Avenue
-2417 Webster Avenue
-172 Tillary Street
-885 Howard Avenue
-91-45 121st Street
-108-01 Horace Harding Exp.
-1850 Clove Road
Major League Baseball postponed the Yankees game until Thursday. A National Women’s Soccer League game in New Jersey and an indoor WNBA game set for Brooklyn were also called off Wednesday.
On Broadway, Wednesday’s performance of “Hamilton” was canceled, while “Killing Eve” star Jodie Comer had difficulty breathing and left the matinee after 10 minutes; the show restarted with an understudy, show publicists said.
In New Jersey, Newark public schools, the state’s largest school district, along with a handful of other districts closed for the day.
New Jersey state police delivered N95 masks to NJ Transit staff at multiple high volume locations. They will be made available to the public at several stations including Newark Penn Station, ,Atlatic City, Camden, Trenton, Secaucus and Hoboken.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Community Wellness will also be distributing N95 masks to senior buildings, the Newark Public Library and other key locations throughout the city. Residents can also pick up masks at its main site at 110 William Street in Clifton or the Health Center at 394 University Avenue in Newark.
Anthony Carlo talks to Hoboken residents on how they’re dealing with the hazardous air quality.
The haze is having a widespread impact. The FAA slowed flight traffic in and out of Newark and LaGuardia airports due to the poor visibility.
Smoke from the wildfires in various parts of Canada has been lapping into the U.S. since last month but intensified with recent fires in Quebec, where about 100 were considered out of control Wednesday – which, unsettlingly, was National Clean Air Day in Canada.
The smoke was so thick in downtown Ottawa, Canada’s capital, that office towers just across the Ottawa River were barely visible. In Toronto, Yili Ma said her hiking plans were canceled and she was forgoing restaurant patios, a beloved Canadian summer tradition.
“I put my mask away for over a year, and now I’m putting on my mask since yesterday,” the 31-year-old lamented.
More than 400 blazes burning across Canada have left 20,000 people displaced. The U.S. has sent more than 600 firefighters and equipment to Canada. Other countries are also helping.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to President Joe Biden by phone on Wednesday. Trudeau’s office said he thanked Biden for his support and that both leaders “acknowledged the need to work together to address the devastating impacts of climate change.”
New York offered to send some fire rangers to deploy to Canada to help, Governor Hochul said on Wednesday.
U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist Zach Taylor said the current weather pattern in the central and eastern U.S. is essentially funneling in the smoke.
Some rain should help clear the air somewhat in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this weekend or early next week, though more thorough relief will come from containing or extinguishing the fires, he said.
The smoke exacerbated health problems for some people. Exposure to elevated fine particle pollution levels can affect the lungs and heart.
Dr. Jack Caravanos is an environmental health expert at NYU who studies environmental toxins and pollution. He says because of the Canadian wildfires, the air quality is three times worse than normal.
“As time goes on, the air inside a building will ultimately equal the air outside, so for homes, restaurants, and delicatessens, the air quality inside will pretty much match the air quality outside, especially as this thing goes on for a few days,” Caravanos said.
Kids, who often are encouraged to go out and play, “are more susceptible to smoke for a number of reasons,” said Laura Kate Bender, the lung association’s National Assistant Vice President, healthy air. “Their lungs are still developing, they breathe in more air per unit of body weight.”
Climate expert Radley Horton discusses the impacts of the Canada wildfires on our environment.