The ongoing Canadian wildfires have unleashed a pervasive smoke cloud, infiltrating the northern regions of the United States and affecting over 120 million residents across twelve states. Stretching from Minnesota to New York and reaching as far as the Carolinas, these areas are the top-ranked in terms of hazardous air quality conditions.
At the start of Thursday morning, Chicago was listed by IQAir as the city with the worst air quality worldwide. Washington, DC, closely followed as the second most affected city, while Detroit and Minneapolis ranked among the top ten most polluted urban centers.
According to the National Weather Service’s warning, the unyielding Canadian wildfires, combined with prevailing west-to-northwesterly winds, are expected to prolong adverse air quality conditions in south-central Canada and the north-central to northeast areas of the United States, offering no indication of respite.
On Wednesday, AirNow.gov issued a Code Red alert, denoting unhealthy air quality, for significant portions of the Midwest and Ohio Valley. Most affected American cities fell under the “Code Orange” category, representing air quality that is harmful to sensitive groups.
AirNow.gov confirmed alarming levels of “very unhealthy” air in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Iowa, posing health risks to the entire population.
The thick smoke has severely diminished visibility, reducing it to three miles or less in various areas across the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.
The forthcoming hours are anticipated to showcase the country’s most abysmal air quality in these regions, with a high probability of reaching “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” levels. However, as the day advances, it is predicted that the smoke will gradually clear away.
Moving eastward, including New York, residents can expect a “Code Orange” warning, indicating “Unhealthy for sensitive groups.”
Local residents are strongly advised to remain indoors with operational air conditioning, abstain from outdoor activities, and in certain areas, wear N95 masks when venturing outside. New York authorities have taken measures to distribute masks at transit hubs and parks. Governor Kathy Hochul expanded the air quality health advisory to encompass the entire state on Wednesday.
Given the severity and persistence of the Canadian wildfires, continued vigilance, precautionary measures, and collaboration among affected communities are paramount. With the condition unfolding, the US and Canadian governments are keeping up with the current situation and taking strong actions to keep the public safe and healthy.