Smog curtain from Canadian wildfires descends on New York, American midwest again

Smoke and haze from wildfires in Canada once again drifted south, blanketing parts of the east coast and midwest of the United States, including New York City, in a curtain of smog.

The New York skyline under a curtain of polluted haze. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@GaryHershorn

People across the Midwest experienced conditions similar to what New Yorkers confronted in early June.

According to the New York Times, city and state officials warned residents of a potential replay of the smoke crisis that gripped the state earlier this month, when the air quality index in the New York City metro area registered above 400, the worst since the Environmental Protection Agency began recording air quality measurements in 1999.

In Midtown Manhattan, commuters yesterday wore pandemic-era face masks to make their way to the office. So did costumed performers in Times Square, who strapped paper masks over their mouths before donning head covering felt masks to transform into Mickey or Minnie Mouse.

Although air quality across the state was better on Thursday than it was three weeks ago, Governor Kathy Hochul said during a news briefing that the air was “unhealthy in every corner of the state of New York.” It could remain that way until next week’s Fourth of July celebrations, she said.

Warnings were issued in other parts of the Northeast, including the entire state of Pennsylvania, and Mid-Atlantic, including Washington, with vulnerable residents being encouraged to stay indoors.

The skies were especially smoky in cities like Detroit, Pittsburgh and Columbus, where people donned face masks, outdoor events were canceled or delayed and health care centers saw an uptick in respiratory complaints.

By yesterday morning, there were at least 500 active wildfires in Canada, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, with over half burning out of control. Canada’s wildfire season does not typically begin until early July, meaning the effect on air quality in the northern United States could persist for weeks at least.