NEW YORK (PIX11) — Hazy smoke from wildfires in Canada blanketed the New York City area Tuesday and Wednesday, affecting air quality and visibility in what Mayor Eric Adams described as an “unprecedented” and “alarming” event.
Adams spoke Wednesday morning on New York City’s deteriorating air quality and his administration’s response. The air quality is expected to slightly improve Wednesday night but is forecast to deteriorate again Thursday afternoon into the evening, according to the mayor.
Late Tuesday night, the air quality in New York City hit record levels, reaching 218 on the Air Quality Index, which is “very unhealthy,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Yesterday, New Yorkers saw and smelled something that has never impacted us on this scale before,” Adams said during his briefing Wednesday. “We had dangerously high levels of wildfire smoke from thousands of miles away.”
Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said it’s very unusual for the air quality index to go above 150 in New York City and it may have been the first time it surpassed 200.
Department of Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said it was the worst air quality in New York City since the 1960s.
PIX11 Meteorologist Stacy Ann Gooden shared her timeline on the air quality alert, which is expected to last through Thursday.
Officials urged all New Yorkers to stay indoors as much as possible Wednesday and Thursday. The high air quality index is especially unhealthy for certain groups, including those with asthma, heart and lung disease, or general breathing problems. Children and adults over 65 are also vulnerable.
The mayor said New Yorkers should take precautions such as keeping windows closed, running an air purifier, avoiding the outdoors, and wearing a mask if they do need to go outside.
“This is not a day to train for a marathon,” Adams added. “If you must go outdoors, wear a high-quality mask.”
The New York City Department of Education did not cancel in-person classes on Wednesday, however, public schools will not offer any outdoor activities.
The Federal Aviation Administration paused some flights bound for LaGuardia Airport and slowed planes to Newark Liberty because the smoke was limiting visibility.
Wildfire smoke from Canada poured into New York and New Jersey, coloring the skies orange and creating poor visibility on city streets as well as reducing air quality.
There are 423 active fires across Canada — 246 of them out of control, according to Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.
The Air Quality Index in New York City was 174 on Wednesday morning, according to Adams.
An air quality alert will remain in place for New York City at least until Wednesday night, according to Iscol. However, Adams said recommendations may change as the forecast evolves.
New Jersey officials also urged residents to take precautions during the air quality alert.
“Due to heavy smoke from a convergence of wildfires as far away as Canada, the NJDEP has issued an air quality alert for the northern region of the state, including Newark,” said Mayor Ras J. Baraka.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection advises:
- Staying indoors as much as possible.
- Keeping your windows closed.
- Using an air purifier if possible.
- If you must go outside, limit your physical activity and wear a mask for any extended period of exposure.