Air quality NYC (WABC) — The thick, unhealthy haze that disrupted daily life for millions of people, blotting out skylines and turning skies orange dissipated showing signs of improvement.
Health officials in New York City and across the Tri-State are still warning residents to keep an eye on air quality levels and to stay inside and limit or avoid outdoor activities should conditions deteriorate Friday. Wind continues to push some of the smoke-filled air south from wildfires in Canada.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state will make 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.
New York state health officials issued another air quality advisory for Long Island, New York City, and Western New York for Friday.
Mayor Eric Adams called the Air Quality Alert an, “unprecedented event in our city and New Yorkers must take precautions” at a Wednesday press briefing.
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 Belmont Stakes on Long Island will still be run on Saturday if the Air Quality Index is below 200.
Alternate side parking was suspended for Friday.
Adams said masks will be made available at police and fire stations.
The fire stations distributing masks include:
-100 Duane Street
-207 West 77th Street
-720 Melrose Avenue
-2417 Webster Avenue
-172 Tillary Street
-885 Howard Avenue
-91-45 121st Street
-108-01 Horace Harding Exp.
-1850 Clove Road
In New Jersey, Newark public schools, the state’s largest school district, was set to resume operations on Friday after closing Thursday along with a handful of other districts. Elizabeth schools were set to have a half day.
Toni Yates reports on the smoky haze blanketing New Jersey.
New Jersey state police delivered N95 masks to NJ Transit staff at multiple high volume locations. They will be made available to the public at several stations including Newark Penn Station, Atlantic City, Camden, Trenton, Secaucus and Hoboken.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Community Wellness will also be distributing N95 masks to senior buildings, the Newark Public Library and other key locations throughout the city. Residents can also pick up masks at its main site at 110 William Street in Clifton or the Health Center at 394 University Avenue in Newark.
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.
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.
New York offered to send some fire rangers to deploy to Canada to help, Governor Hochul said.
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.
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.
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 air quality NYC