Chicago, June 29 (BNA) A dull, gloomy sky loomed over tens of millions of Americans Thursday as smoke from Canadian wildfires spread across the Midwest and East, causing unhealthy and dangerous conditions in some areas.
The National Weather Service said air quality alerts were in effect as of midnight for an area of the United States stretching from Wisconsin and northern Illinois, extending through Michigan and Ohio and extending to New York, Washington and the East Coast.
According to Reuters, more than 100 million Americans have been urged to limit prolonged outdoor activities and, if necessary, to wear a mask if they have lung or respiratory disease. He also advised children and the elderly to reduce or avoid strenuous activities.
People living in major American cities such as New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia saw a smoky sky dim from the summer sun as the scent of burning wood lingered in the air.
“The air quality is unhealthy in every corner of the state,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said during a morning news conference, recommending that residents regularly check the air quality in their area. “This is the new normal for New Yorkers.”
On Thursday morning, smoke rose over Chicago for the third day in a row. Air quality was “unhealthy” in the third-largest city in the United States, which was joined by Detroit and Washington, D.C., as having the poorest air among major cities on the planet, according to IQAir.com, which tracks pollution.
“The air quality in Chicago was horrible, giving me a severe migraine. Feeling better today with my trusty air purifier on full blast. Taking a cold day,” said one Twitter user named Scar.
Air quality alerts have been triggered by a drift of smoke from wildfires raging in Canada, which is grappling with the worst start to the wildfire season on record.
An area of 8 million hectares (19.8 million acres), larger than the state of West Virginia, had already burned. On Wednesday, there were 477 active fires, about half of which were deemed out of control, and had spread from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic coasts.
While poor air quality was a concern in the Midwest and East, the US south was once again dealing with a sweltering heat wave that promised to last all day Thursday and into the long Fourth of July weekend.
The heat index — which measures temperature due to a mixture of humidity and temperature — was expected to rise to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) and in some areas as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). The weather service urged people to seek air-conditioned spaces and drink plenty of water.
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