At least 10 states from the Midwest to the Northeast again faced smoky conditions created by raging wildfires in Canada on Friday, capping a week in which millions struggled to cope with poor air quality.
The smoke that darkened the horizons and made it hard for some to breathe was expected to linger into the long 4th of July weekend, according to the National Weather Service. But air quality was expected to slowly improve as thunderstorms help disperse the smoke and possibly pave the way for Independence Day fireworks celebrations.
Skies over Baltimore and Philadelphia had cleared slightly by early afternoon, local health officials said, although the air remained dangerous for people at risk, including the elderly, pregnant women, children and those with respiratory and cardiac. Baltimore libraries continued to offer free face masks.
Officials in Montreal canceled the city’s Canada Day fireworks display, which had been scheduled for Saturday, due to air pollution concerns. Horse racing scheduled for Friday at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York was canceled by the New York Racing Association, which operates the track.
In New York, officials had yet to decide whether the July 4 fireworks would continue as planned, Mayor Eric Adams said on 1010 WINS radio Friday.
Lino Alayo, 42, a landscaper on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, started his Friday morning by checking the air quality level on his phone, followed by three pumps of his asthma inhaler. Well aware of the potential health risks, he said he was forcing himself to work more slowly these days. « I just have to learn to adapt if this is going to be the new normal, » Alayo said. « It raises a lot of fears. »
John Valentin, 53, a building superintendent who lives and works on the Upper West Side, said he gargled with Listerine to soothe the irritation in his throat. He spent Friday cleaning a thin layer of soot from the windowsills of his apartment building, he said, and sealing stairway windows after older tenants complained about the air quality.
Other New Yorkers were less concerned about conditions. Consuela Agudelo, 77, was waiting for a bus in Queens on Friday morning and, like most people on the street, she wasn’t wearing a mask, although she did have some in her purse.
« I don’t wear it because I don’t feel anything, » said Ms Agudelo. “Also, he’s so hot in a mask. When I left the house, I smelled smoke. But it’s not as bad as the first time. In early June, smoke from a wildfire had turned the New York air orange and reached « dangerous » levels.
For much of the week, the Great Lakes region, parts of the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic were choked with smoke, prompting residents to stay indoors to avoid the unhealthy air. Those forced to leave their homes for work, errands or other activities have masked up to stay safe.
They were there on Friday morning nearly 500 fires across Canada, with nearly half of them burning out of control, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center. Canada’s wildfire season began several weeks earlier this year, meaning wildfires could impact air quality across North America for weeks.
Sarah Maslin Nir, Adam Bednar AND Jon Obstacle contributed report.