Disasters & Accidents

Smoky conditions spreading in US, tens of millions remain under health alerts

Washington, Jun 8 (EFE).- The smoky conditions continue to expand across the northeastern United States on Thursday, where millions of people remain under alerts by the authorities due to the risk of inhaling potentially damaging particulate matter from the hundreds of wildfires burning hundreds – or even thousands – of miles away in Canada.

After the extraordinary images published on Wednesday of huge buildings in New York City – like the Empire State Building – surrounded by a thick orange haze, Washington DC woke on Thursday with smoke having settled over the US capital.

The authorities have urged the public to limit the amount of time they spend outdoors and to use facemasks to avoid inhaling too much of the smoke, which can be especially dangerous for people with asthma, pulmonary conditions or heart problems.

On the social networks, the National Weather Service on Thursday explained what to do if a poor air quality alert is issued, saying that people should stay indoors, keep themselves informed of the situation, minimize the use of vehicles and other machinery that use gasoline and not burn trash or other items.

Some 430 forest fires are currently active in Canada and parts of the northeastern US.

According to the forecasts, the smoky conditions may take several days to dissipate across the zone where approximately 75 million people live.

Some public services have been canceled such as public schools in Yonkers, New York, which were closed on Thursday, and schools in New York, Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC canceled open air activities.

In Washington, the air quality index on Thursday morning exceeded 310, reaching Level 6, or “Dangerous,” according to the Air Quality Index (AQI).

The quality of the air in New York City began to improve slightly on Thursday morning, although it is still ranked as 5 or 6.

Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Washington DC are currently the areas more heavily affected by the smoke, which is also thick in the cities of Baltimore, Newark, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Authorities have warned that this year will be one of the worst years for wildfires in Canadian history.

On Thursday, the smoke from the wildfires affected air traffic across the northeastern US for the second consecutive day, with important airports like those in Philadelphia, New York (LaGuardia) and Newark, New Jersey, being among the most impacted.

The visibility problems caused by the smoke throughout the region led the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to temporarily halt a number of flights to Philadelphia and LaGuardia and to delay flights to Newark.

As of 10 am, Philadelphia had 27 flights – both departures and arrivals – that had been postponed, but no cancellations, while LaGuardia had 193 delayed flights and two cancellations and Newark had 81 delays and five cancellations.

The FAA did not report any smoke problems at other major airports but 22 flights were delayed and three canceled at Washington Dulles and 71 were delayed and three canceled at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

The FAA said that “reduced visibility” resulting from the fires will continue to affect air travel on Thursday and it will probably be necessary to take measures to manage air traffic in cities such as New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Charlotte, North Carolina.

EFE pem/pamp/bp

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