Smoke from Canada Wildfires Cover U.S. East Coast Skies
TEMPO.CO, New York - Schools across the U.S. East Coast canceled outdoor activities, commercial airline traffic was slowed and millions of Americans were urged to stay indoors on Wednesday, June 7, as smoke from Canadian wildfires drifted south, blanketing cities in a thick yellowish haze.
The U.S. National Weather Service issued air quality alerts for virtually the entire Atlantic seaboard. Health from Vermont to South Carolina and as far west as Ohio and Kansas warned residents that spending time outdoors could cause respiratory problems due to high levels of fine particulates in the atmosphere.
"It's critical that Americans experiencing dangerous air pollution, especially those with health conditions, listen to local authorities to protect themselves and their families," U.S. President Joe Biden said on Twitter.
U.S. private forecasting service AccuWeather said thick haze and soot extending from high elevations to the ground level marked the worst outbreak of wildfire smoke to blanket the Northeastern U.S. in more than 20 years.
New York's world-famous skyline, usually visible for miles, appeared to vanish underneath the otherworldly veil of smoke, which some residents said made them feel unwell.
"It makes breathing difficult," Mohammed Abass said as he walked down Broadway in Manhattan. "I've been scheduled for a road test for driving, for my driving license today, and it was canceled."
The smoky air was especially tough on people toiling outdoors, such as Chris Ricciardi, owner of Neighbor's Envy Landscaping in Roxbury, New Jersey. He said he and his crew were curtailing work hours and wearing face masks they had previously donned when pollen was heavy.
"We don't have the luxury to stop working," he said. "We want to keep our exposure to the smoke to a minimum, but what can you really do about it?"
New York Governor Kathy Hochul called the situation an "emergency crisis," noting that the air pollution index for parts of her state was eight times above normal.
Reduced visibility from the haze forced the Federal Aviation Administration to slow air traffic into the New York City area and Philadelphia from elsewhere on the East Coast and upper Midwest, with flight delays averaging about a half hour.
Schools up and down the East Coast called off outdoor activities, including sports practices, field trips and recesses, to protect students.
Even Major League Baseball was impacted, as the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies both postponed home games scheduled for Wednesday. A National Women's Soccer League match in Harrison, New Jersey, was also rescheduled, as was a WNBA women's basketball game in Brooklyn.