NEW YORK (Reuters) – Schools on the east coast of the United States canceled outdoor activities on Wednesday as smoke from wildfires in Canada drifted south and blanketed cities in a thick yellowish haze, canceling flights. Travel has slowed, prompting millions of Americans to stay indoors.
The US National Weather Service has issued an air quality alert for most of the Atlantic coast. Health officials from Vermont to South Carolina and west to Ohio and Kansas have warned residents that spending time outdoors can cause respiratory illness due to high levels of fine particles in the air. bottom.
US President Joe Biden tweeted: “Americans experiencing dangerous air pollution, especially those with health problems, should listen to their local governments to protect themselves and their families. It’s important,” he said.
In a written statement, the White House said Mr. Biden held talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday to propose additional U.S. aid. The White House added that the United States has already deployed more than 600 firefighters and support personnel to help fight the fire.
AccuWeather, a U.S. commercial forecasting service, said the thick haze and soot that stretched from high altitudes to the ground were the worst wildfire smoke outbreaks over the northeastern United States in more than 20 years.
New York City’s world-famous skyline, normally visible from miles away, seemed to disappear under an otherworldly veil of smoke, leaving some residents feeling sick.
“It makes it hard to breathe,” said Mohammed Abbas as he walked down Manhattan’s Broadway. I was supposed to take the road test for my driver’s license today, but it has been cancelled.
The smoky air was especially harsh for those who struggle outdoors, like Chris Ricciardi, owner of Neighbors Envy Landscapes in Roxbury, New Jersey. He and his crew said they were working shorter hours and wearing masks they used to wear when pollen was bad.
“We can’t afford to stop working,” he says. “We want to minimize smoke exposure, but what can we actually do?”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the situation an “emergency crisis,” pointing to air pollution indexes in parts of the state that were eight times higher than normal.
Reduced visibility due to fog forced the Federal Aviation Administration to delay air traffic from the East Coast and other parts of the upper Midwest to the New York City area and Philadelphia, with plane delays averaging about 30 minutes. rice field.
Schools up and down the east coast have canceled outdoor activities such as sports practice, field trips and recess to protect students.
A high school in Bethesda, Maryland, moved its graduation indoors, and an elementary school in Brooklyn, New York, postponed its “Spring Fling” dance.
Broadway’s daytime performance of Prima Fascié was canceled after just 10 minutes after actress Jodie Comer experienced difficulty breathing due to poor air quality.
A production spokesperson said in a statement that the show “has started over with Dani Arrington as Tessa replacing Ms. Comer.”
Major League Baseball was also affected as the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies postponed their home games scheduled for Wednesday. A National Women’s Soccer League game in Harrison, New Jersey, was also rescheduled, as was the WNBA women’s basketball game in Brooklyn.
The Air Quality Index (AQI), which measures major pollutants including particulate matter produced by fires, is well above 400 in some areas, with 100 being “unhealthy” and 300 being “dangerous,” according to Airau. and
As of 12pm EDT (4pm GMT), Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is experiencing the worst air quality in the country, with an AQI reading of 410. Among major cities, New York had the worst air quality readings in the world as of Wednesday afternoon. According to IQAir, this number is 342, almost double that of chronically polluted cities such as Dubai (168) and Delhi (164).
Smoke Crossing from Canada
Smoke was drifting from Canada across the northern US border. Hundreds of wildfires have raged across Canada, consuming 9.4 million acres (3.8 million hectares) and displacing 120,000 people from their homes in the unusually early and violent start of Canada’s wildfire season.
The skies over New York City and many other North American cities faded over Wednesday, with an eerie yellowish hue showing through the smoky canopy. The air smelled of burning wood.
Wildfire smoke has been linked to increased heart attack and stroke rates, increased emergency room visits for asthma and other respiratory illnesses, eye irritation, itchy skin and rashes. .
Home improvement stores in Manhattan sold out of air purifiers and masks as residents scrambled to protect themselves. The New York Road Runners have canceled events to mark Global Running Day.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams advised, “Today is not the day to train for a marathon or play an outdoor event with your kids.” “Older people, those with heart or respiratory problems, or the elderly should stay indoors.”
Pedestrians in the city, many wearing masks, recalled the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tyrone Sylvester, 66, has played chess outdoors in Manhattan’s Union Square nearly every day for 30 years, but wears a mask and has never seen the city’s air quality this bad. Said he saw it.
“When the sun looks like that,” he said, pointing to a bronze-like orb visible through a smoky sky, “you know something is wrong. This is what global warming looks like.”
Poor air quality is likely to continue into the weekend, according to AccuWeather, as a developing storm system is expected to move smoke westward across the Great Lakes, further south through the Ohio Valley, and into the mid-Atlantic region. ing.
Reporting by Tyler Clifford of New York and Denny Thomas of Canada. Additional reporting by Nancy Lapid, Julia Harte, Brad Brooks, and Dan Whitcomb. Written by Joseph Ax and Steve Gorman.Editing: David Gregorio, Rosalva O’Brien, Jamie Freed
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