Smoky haze blanketing US, Canada could last for days as wildfires rage, winds won’t budge

NEW YORK (AP) — On air quality maps, purple means the worst. In reality, it is a thick, dangerous haze that disrupts the daily lives of millions of people in the United States and Canada, obscuring horizons and turning skies orange.

And with weather systems expected to barely move, the blanket of smoke rising from wildfires in Quebec and Nova Scotia and sending plumes of fine particles as far away as North Carolina is expected to persist Thursday and possibly the weekend.

It means at least another day, or more, of a dystopian-style detour that has driven players from ballparks, actors from Broadway stages, delayed thousands of flights and sparked a resurgence in mask-wearing and the remote working – while raising concerns about the health effects of prolonged exposure to such bad air.

The weather system chasing the large Canada-US smoke – a low-pressure system over Maine and Nova Scotia – “is likely to hang around for at least the next few days,” the US National Weather Service meteorologist said. Brian Ramsey.

“Conditions will likely remain unhealthy, at least until the wind direction changes or the fires are put out,” Ramsey said. “Since the fires are raging – they are really big – they will probably continue for weeks. But it will really be a matter of the changing winds.

Authorities across the eastern United States warned residents to stay indoors and limit or avoid outdoor activities again on Thursday, extending ‘Code Red’ air quality alerts in some places for a third straight day as forecasts showed winds continuing to push the smoky air south.

In Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered schools to cancel outdoor recess, sports and field trips on Thursday. In suburban Philadelphia, authorities set up an emergency shelter so people living outside could take shelter in the mist.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the state was making one million N95 masks — the type prevalent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — available at facilities across the state, including 400,000 in New York. York. She also urged residents to stay put.

“You don’t need to go out and walk around. You don’t have to push the baby in the stroller,” Hochul said Wednesday night. “It’s not a safe time to do that.”

The message may be getting through. So far, officials said Wednesday that New York City has yet to see an increase in 911 calls related to respiratory problems and cardiac arrests.

More than 400 fires that have burned across Canada have displaced 20,000 people. The United States sent over 600 firefighters and equipment to Canada. Other countries are also helping.

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke by telephone with President Joe Biden. Trudeau’s office said it thanked Biden for his support and that the two leaders “recognized the need to work together to address the devastating effects of climate change.”

Canadian officials say this is shaping up to be the country’s worst ever wildfire season. It started early on drier ground than usual and picked up speed quickly. Smoke from the fires has been spreading across the United States since last month, but intensified with recent blazes in Quebec, where about 100 blazes were deemed out of control on Wednesday.

“I can taste the air,” Dr. Ken Strumpf said in a Facebook post from Syracuse, New York, where the sky has taken on the local university’s colorful nickname: Orange.

Smoke was so thick in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, that office towers just across the Ottawa River were barely visible. In Toronto, Yili Ma said her hiking group had canceled a planned hike this week and was forgoing restaurant patios that are a beloved summer tradition in a country known for its harsh winters.

“I put my mask away for over a year, and now I’ve been putting my mask on since yesterday,” Ma lamented.

Eastern Quebec received rain on Wednesday, but Environment Canada Montreal meteorologist Simon Legault said no significant rain was forecast for days in remote areas of central Quebec where the fires of forest are more intense.

In the United States, federal authorities on Wednesday suspended some flights to New York’s LaGuardia Airport and slowed planes to Newark and Philadelphia because smoke limited visibility.

Major League Baseball’s Yankees and Phillies have had their games postponed. On Broadway, “Hamilton” and “Camelot” canceled Wednesday performances and “Prima Facie” star Jodie Comer quit a matinee after 10 minutes due to breathing difficulties. The show rebooted with a one-liner, the show’s publicists said.

Nor was it to be on the Central Park outdoor stage. Shakespeare in the Park has canceled its performances of “Hamlet” on Thursday and Friday, saying it is not nobler in spirit to suffer the slingshots and arrows of miserable air.


Gillies reported from Toronto.

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