Quebec Fires Affect Local Air Quality

Smoke photo

This shot of the Hudson River was taken at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday (June 7) from Anthony’s Nose in southern Philipstown. (Photo by Lucy Freilich)

Health advisory issued because of particulates

The state departments of environmental conservation and health issued an air quality health advisory, including for the Lower Hudson Valley, through at least Thursday (June 8) because of more than 100 wildfires burning in Quebec.

The fires have caused hazy conditions throughout New York. The agencies recommended that people limit strenuous outdoor activity and those especially sensitive to the effects of elevated levels of pollutants, including the very young and those with respiratory problems such as heart disease or asthma, avoid spending time outdoors.

For people who must be outdoors, an N95, KN95 or CF94 mask is recommended.

The state agencies issue advisories when meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, will exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. Fine particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in the air that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter.

Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can cause short-term health effects, such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. It also can worsen conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

AccuWeather called the smoke outbreak the worst in the Northeast in at least 20 years. “As bad as the smoke and air pollution was on Tuesday, the air quality can be even worse at times across parts of the Northeast on Wednesday and poor air quality is expected to linger in some areas into the weekend,” said its chief meteorologist, Jonathan Porter, in a statement.

How long will it last? “On Thursday and Friday, the worst smoke and related air quality is expected to shift west across the Great Lakes and parts of Ohio Valley and interior Northeast, including the cities of Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Detroit,” said Dan DePodwin, AccuWeather’s director of forecasting operation, in a statement.

Accuweather map

He added: “Later this weekend into early next week, a storm moving through the Ohio Valley may cause the smoke to wrap westward across the Great Lakes and then southward through the Ohio Valley and into the mid-Atlantic. This behavior — where a storm ‘ingests’ smoke and transports it far away from the fires — occurred in May with fires in Alberta and can result in a ‘smoke storm.’ ”

The first significant rain to help with firefighting efforts is not expected until Monday (June 12). “The fires may burn for a significant period of time and continue to loft smoke, creating the opportunity for time periods where smoke can return to parts of the eastern U.S. over the coming weeks and even months,” the service said.

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