Smoky skies hang over U.S. Midwest, East Coast, hurting air quality

Chicago June 28 (BNA): Smoke from the raging Canadian wildfires swept over the US Midwest and parts of the East Coast Wednesday, causing hazy skies and deteriorating air quality, leading to dangerous and unhealthy conditions for millions of Americans.

The National Weather Service said a wide area of ​​the Midwest, stretching from western Iowa through Illinois and Wisconsin to Michigan, was on an air quality alert that was expected to continue throughout the day and into Thursday or even longer.

According to Reuters, air quality alerts were also in effect for western New York, Pennsylvania, the Washington, D.C. area and parts of North Carolina.

And the meteorologists urged people living in those areas, especially children, the elderly and those affected by respiratory diseases, to limit prolonged or heavy exertion and, if possible, to stay at home or wear a mask.

In Chicago on Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of residents woke up to a smoke-induced haze that washed away the summer sun and the smell of burning wood. The city’s air quality has been rated “extremely unhealthy” by AirNow.gov, a government website that tracks pollution.

The smoke was generated by prolonged wildfires in Canada’s two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

In Toronto, the Air Quality Health Index was expected to reach 9 on a 10-point scale on Wednesday, indicating a high level of risk. Authorities encourage residents to limit outdoor activities.

Canada is grappling with its worst ever wildfire season start, which has already burned 6.5 million hectares (16 million acres), an area slightly larger than West Virginia.

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In its forecasts for the southern United States, Florida and California, the weather service said high temperatures combined with high humidity were the biggest concern, with about 56 million people expected to experience stifling heat throughout the day and into the weekend.

Heat indices—which use humidity and temperature to calculate temperature—were expected to rise to the equivalent of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The service said the heat index is expected to reach 115 degrees in some areas, urging people to stay indoors and drink plenty of water.

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