NEW YORK (WABC) — The thick, unhealthy haze that’s disrupting daily life for millions of people, blotting out skylines and turning skies orange continues for another day, but there are signs of improvement.
Officials in New York City and across the Tri-State warned residents to stay inside and limit or avoid outdoor activities again Thursday, extending air quality alerts as forecasts showed winds continuing to push smoke-filled air south from the wildfires in Canada.
In New Jersey, Newark public schools, the state’s largest school district, along with a handful of other districts closed for the day.
New York City public schools were already scheduled to be closed on Thursday and Friday.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state was making a million N95 masks – the kind prevalent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – available at state facilities, including 400,000 in New York City. She also urged residents to stay put.
“You don’t need to go out and take a walk. You don’t need to push the baby in the stroller,” Hochul said Wednesday night. “This is not a safe time to do that.”
The message may be getting through. So far, officials said Wednesday, New York City has yet to see an uptick in 911 calls related to respiratory issues and cardiac arrests.
Climate expert Radley Horton discusses the impact of this smoky haze on our environment.
Mayor Eric Adams called the Air Quality Alert an, “unprecedented event in our city and New Yorkers must take precautions.”
He said the Air Quality Index hit 484 at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday – the max on the scale is 500. Anything above 300 on the government’s air quality index is considered “hazardous.”
The National Weather Service issued an Air Quality Alert for New York City and parts of the Tri-State area through Thursday.
The city will not be conducting outdoor activities on Thursday and alternate side parking is suspended.
Health officials are urging area residents to limit outdoor activities as air quality is expected to remain at “unhealthy” to “very unhealthy” levels.
Adams says masks will be made available at police and fire stations.
The smoky haze is having a widespread impact. The FAA slowed flight traffic in and out of Newark and LaGuardia airports due to the poor visibility.
Major League Baseball postponed the Yankees game until Thursday. A National Women’s Soccer League game in New Jersey and an indoor WNBA game set for Brooklyn were also called off Wednesday.
On Broadway, Wednesday’s performance of “Hamilton” was canceled, while “Killing Eve” star Jodie Comer had difficulty breathing and left the matinee after 10 minutes; the show restarted with an understudy, show publicists said.
New Jersey closed state offices early, and some political demonstrations in spots from Manhattan to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, were moved indoors or postponed. Striking Hollywood writers were pulled off picket lines in the New York metropolitan area.
WATCH | Toni Yates is live in New Jersey with updates on air conditions
Smoke from the wildfires in various parts of Canada has been lapping into the U.S. since last month but intensified with recent fires in Quebec, where about 100 were considered out of control Wednesday – which, unsettlingly, was National Clean Air Day in Canada.
RELATED | Canada wildfire status tracker
The smoke was so thick in downtown Ottawa, Canada’s capital, that office towers just across the Ottawa River were barely visible. In Toronto, Yili Ma said her hiking plans were canceled and she was forgoing restaurant patios, a beloved Canadian summer tradition.
“I put my mask away for over a year, and now I’m putting on my mask since yesterday,” the 31-year-old lamented.
More than 400 blazes burning across Canada have left 20,000 people displaced. The U.S. has sent more than 600 firefighters and equipment to Canada. Other countries are also helping.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to President Joe Biden by phone on Wednesday. Trudeau’s office said he thanked Biden for his support and that both leaders “acknowledged the need to work together to address the devastating impacts of climate change.”
New York offered to send some fire rangers to deploy to Canada to help, Governor Hochul said on Wednesday.
U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist Zach Taylor said the current weather pattern in the central and eastern U.S. is essentially funneling in the smoke. Some rain should help clear the air somewhat in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic this weekend or early next week, though more thorough relief will come from containing or extinguishing the fires, he said.
The smoke exacerbated health problems for some people. Exposure to elevated fine particle pollution levels can affect the lungs and heart.
Dr. Jack Caravanos is an environmental health expert at NYU who studies environmental toxins and pollution. He says because of the Canadian wildfires, the air quality is three times worse than normal.
“As time goes on, the air inside a building will ultimately equal the air outside, so for homes, restaurants, and delicatessens, the air quality inside will pretty much match the air quality outside, especially as this thing goes on for a few days,” Caravanos said.
Kids, who often are encouraged to go out and play, “are more susceptible to smoke for a number of reasons,” said Laura Kate Bender, the lung association’s National Assistant Vice President, healthy air. “Their lungs are still developing, they breathe in more air per unit of body weight.”
Climate expert Radley Horton discusses the impacts of the Canada wildfires on our environment.
A toll-free air quality hotline has been established so New York residents can stay informed on the air quality situation. The toll-free number is 1-800-535-1345.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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