Air quality alerts were issued for the second day in a row along the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast U.S. as a blanket of smoke covers cities and towns, creating health concerns for millions.
“This one is a pretty big one and some of the worst air quality we’ve seen in the area for several decades," said Allison Crimmins, director of the National Climate Assessment.
The smoke is caused by hundreds of wildfires burning out of control in Quebec and Nova Scotia, Canada.
"There are a lot of factors that are causing these wildfires, but we know that climate change is a significant one," Crimmins stated.
The smoke has forced numerous outdoor activities to be canceled.
“If you can avoid those outdoor activities, everyone should, but especially young children and older adults or people with preexisting health conditions," Crimmins said.
Schools up and down the Eastern Seaboard were closed Thursday, and air traffic at many airports is experiencing flight delays of more than an hour.
Given the anticipated minimal movement of weather systems, it is projected that the smoke will potentially extend into the weekend, with the emission of fine particulate matter extending as far as North Carolina and northern Europe.
"Conditions are likely to remain unhealthy, at least until the wind direction changes or the fires get put out," said U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Ramsey. "Since the fires are raging — they're really large — they're probably going to continue for weeks. But it's really just going to be all about the wind shift."
As of Thursday morning,the air quality in a significant portion of the Eastern U.S. was classified as "unhealthy," extending "Code Red" air quality alerts for New York; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Detroit; and Indianapolis, where the air quality has reached a "hazardous" level.
While these conditions in the Northeast are expected to improve through Friday, forecasters said the air quality will deteriorate in parts of the Southern U.S., as officials in Georgiawarned residents of the potential for reduced air quality in the northern regions of the state.
Additionally, winds are forecast to push the thick smoke farther south into the Mid-Atlantic, impacting Delaware, Maryland, northern Virginia and D.C. the most Thursday and Friday.
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