Smoke from wildfire stains the sun and causes health scares across much of the United States

A tearful, cough-inducing smoky haze from Canadian wildfires choked a swathe of the eastern and northern US on Tuesday, with officials warning residents with health risks to stay indoors and keep windows closed.

Health alerts have been issued from New York to the Carolinas and as far away as Minnesota. In New York City, the smoke could be tasted as well as smelled, and it shrouded the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and other Manhattan landmarks in a gray-orange haze.

IQAir, a technology company that tracks air quality and pollution, said New York City’s air quality was among the worst in the world Tuesday night; the city does not usually rank in the top 3,000. A fan of the game between the Yankees and the Chicago White Sox played in the Bronx he compared the experience of being inside one of those old-school Weber grills, even as the game continued without interruption.

Smoke was pouring across the border from Canada, where hundreds of fires remain unchecked and dangerous smoky conditions are expected to persist into Wednesday and possibly the end of the week.

It will be here for a while, said Bryan Ramsey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New York. It’s possible conditions could improve on Wednesday, he said, before another blanket of smoke descends on the East Coast in the afternoon.

In North Carolina, the state Department of Environmental Quality said the state would be under code red or orange air quality alerts through Wednesday due to rapidly rising levels of fine particle pollution attributed to the smoke from fires. Officials are urging residents, especially those with asthma, to stay indoors as much as possible.

In satellite images, the smoke appeared to be particularly thick over portions of Quebec, Ontario and New York.

The worst effects were in Canada, where more than 400 active fires were burning, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center, exacerbating an already active fire season that is only expected to get worse. More than 200 fires, many of them in Quebec, were burning out of control, the agency said. Toronto briefly ranked among the worst 10 cities in terms of air quality on Tuesday.

An estimated 26,000 people across Canada were evacuated on Monday, Canada’s public safety minister Bill Blair said at the news conference.

The images we’ve seen so far this season are some of the gravest we’ve seen in Canada yet, Blair said.

Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed across Canada to help with firefighting efforts. Many Canadians who have had to evacuate in recent days have had just hours to pack before fleeing their homes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the news conference.

This is a scary time for many people, Mr. Trudeau said.

Mr. Trudeau said on Monday that forecasts indicate this could be a particularly bad bushfire season throughout the summer.

There have already been more than 2,200 wildfires in Canada this year, according to the country’s fire agency.

While it’s difficult to link a particular wildfire outbreak to climate change, a landmark United Nations report concluded last year that the risk of devastating wildfires around the world would increase over the next few decades as climate change further intensifies what the report calls a global wildfire crisis.

As the air quality crisis continues, the elderly, children and people with heart or lung problems, including asthma, will be particularly at risk, officials have warned.

The New York Road Runners, the organization that owns and runs the New York City Marathon, stressed runners living in smoke-polluted areas to consider not running on Wednesday’s Global Running Day. Jennifer Stowell, a postdoctoral fellow at the Boston University School of Public Health who has studied the health effects of wildfires, told The New York Times in 2020 that wildfire smoke may be more toxic to the lungs than normal pollution urban atmosphere.

In Oswego, New York, on Lake Ontario, smoke created a haze that settled over the city on Tuesday and gave the sky a yellowish tinge for much of the day. A steady breeze had picked up towards evening, but the smell of smoke was still perceptible and the streets were mostly deserted.

Oswego County school districts have canceled sporting events and outdoor after-school activities. The Oswego Little League said it was canceling all of its games out of an abundance of caution. A D-Day ceremony scheduled in the nearby town of Fulton to honor a soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on June 6, 1944 was also postponed.

Although the Yankees continued to play, their top minor league team canceled a home game in Moosic, Pennsylvania.

In Manhattan on Tuesday night, some commuters were startled by the smell.

At the West 86th Street and Broadway subway station at around 6:45 p.m., passengers trudged up the stairs and onto the street and gasped. The sky was a strange gray-orange and the cool air smelled of smoke.

This morning it smelled like burnt toast, but now it’s more like a campfire, said Benjamin Lukas, 47, who was on his way to his mother’s house to cook dinner for her. It’s just wild.

Mr. Lukas was worried about his mother’s breathing and hoped she had the windows closed, despite the cost of the air conditioning.

For some New Yorkers, the news of the wildfires in Canada came as a surprise, even as they breathed in the smoky air. Is this what it is? Joe Lerner asked as he waited for a bus to cross town. I assumed it was a building fire or something. Yeah, he said, his throat hurt a little.

Covid masks were suddenly in demand. Driving home from work on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Genevieve Cruz was making a quick stop at CVS on Amsterdam Avenue, hoping the drugstore still sold masks.

I always had one with me for Covid, he said. I can’t believe I don’t have one anymore.

The report was provided by Kate LowensteinBen ShpigelSteve KennyEdward MedinaScott DoddJennie CoughlinHappy BelmanAshwin SeshagiriMaria SuhErnesto LondoEd ShanahanAND Vjosa Isai


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