JERSEY CITY, N.J. (PIX11) — The unusually low air quality and visibility around the tri-state region took many people by surprise on Wednesday.

Under a darkened sky at midday, Crystal Cowell, a Newark resident, summed up her feelings in three words. 

“This is nasty,” Cowell said.

In Newark, the skyline was virtually nonexistent. It had been swallowed up by the thick haze that smelled like the wildfires that had caused it in Canada hundreds of miles away. 

The flight path of planes taking off from Newark Liberty International Airport is less than a mile from Newark’s downtown, but planes taking off were barely visible. The aircraft that had managed to take off were the lucky ones. The country’s 14th busiest airport was not busy on Wednesday — delays were 80 minutes at least, due to the smoky haze all over everything, everywhere. 

Another resident, Francesca Ortiz, said she’d never seen anything like it. 

“This is crazy,” Ortiz said. “It’s crazy.”

Ortiz is a parent at Louise Spencer Elementary School in Newark’s Central Ward. At the school’s front door, staffers covered their noses and mouths with handkerchiefs any time they had to open the door to the school building. 

Inside, it was like most school districts across the region. Students were kept from going out for recess or physical education because of the unhealthful air in this city, with North Jersey’s highest rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. 

When asked what it had been like being inside all day at school, Alkabeer Ruff-Oliver, a second grader, had a one-word response.

“Bad,” Ruff-Oliver said.

Despite his unhappiness, keeping him and virtually every other schoolchild in the tri-state indoors on Wednesday was done with their safety in mind. 

By mid-afternoon, the EPA’s meter.