Photos: Thick hazardous haze from wildfires disrupt daily life in US, Canada

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On air quality maps, purple signifies the worst of it. In reality, it’s a thick, hazardous haze that’s disrupting daily life for millions of people across the US and Canada, blotting out skylines and turning skies orange.

And with weather systems expected to hardly budge, the smoky blanket billowing from wildfires in Quebec and Nova Scotia and sending plumes of fine particulate matter as far away as North Carolina should persist into Thursday and possibly the weekend.

Traffic moves along West Street past One World Trade Center, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York, amidst smokey haze from wildfires in Canada. Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest on Wednesday, covering the capitals of both nations in an unhealthy haze, holding up flights at major airports and prompting people to fish out pandemic-era face masks. (AP)
Traffic moves along West Street past One World Trade Center, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York, amidst smokey haze from wildfires in Canada. Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest on Wednesday, covering the capitals of both nations in an unhealthy haze, holding up flights at major airports and prompting people to fish out pandemic-era face masks. (AP)

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That means at least another day, or more, of a dystopian-style detour that’s chased players from ballfields, actors from Broadway stages, delayed thousands of flights and sparked a resurgence in mask wearing and remote work - all while raising concerns about the health effects of prolonged exposure to such bad air.

A person sells face masks outside a souvenir store, Wednesday, June. 7, 2023, in New York. Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest on Wednesday, covering cities in both nations in an unhealthy haze, holding up flights at major airports and prompting people to fish out pandemic-era face masks. (AP)
A person sells face masks outside a souvenir store, Wednesday, June. 7, 2023, in New York. Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest on Wednesday, covering cities in both nations in an unhealthy haze, holding up flights at major airports and prompting people to fish out pandemic-era face masks. (AP)

The weather system that’s driving the great Canadian-American smoke out - a low-pressure system over Maine and Nova Scotia - "will probably be hanging around at least for the next few days,” US National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Ramsey said.

“Conditions are likely to remain unhealthy, at least until the wind direction changes or the fires get put out,” Ramsey said. “Since the fires are raging - they’re really large - they’re probably going to continue for weeks. But it’s really just going be all about the wind shift.”

Traffic moves along Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York, amidst smokey haze from wildfires in Canada. Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest. (AP)
Traffic moves along Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York, amidst smokey haze from wildfires in Canada. Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest. (AP)

Across the eastern US, officials warned residents to stay inside and limit or avoid outdoor activities again Thursday, extending “Code Red” air quality alerts in some places for a third-straight day as forecasts showed winds continuing to push smoke-filled air south.

Students in a 10th grade English class at Pelham Memorial High School look outside the windows of their classroom, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Pelham, NY., as a yellow haze of smoke from wildfires in Canada blanket the area. (AP)
Students in a 10th grade English class at Pelham Memorial High School look outside the windows of their classroom, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Pelham, NY., as a yellow haze of smoke from wildfires in Canada blanket the area. (AP)

In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered schools to cancel outdoor recess, sports and field trips Thursday. In suburban Philadelphia, officials set up an emergency shelter so people living outside can take refuge from the haze.

Pedestrians pass the One World Trade Center, center, amidst a smokey haze from wildfires in Canada, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York. (AP)
Pedestrians pass the One World Trade Center, center, amidst a smokey haze from wildfires in Canada, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York. (AP)

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state was making a million N95 masks - the kind prevalent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic - available at state facilities, including 400,000 in New York City. She also urged residents to stay put.

“You don’t need to go out and take a walk. You don’t need to push the baby in the stroller,” Hochul said Wednesday night. “This is not a safe time to do that.”

A pedestrian walks past the smoke and haze shrouded New York Stock Exchange building in New York City Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (AP)
A pedestrian walks past the smoke and haze shrouded New York Stock Exchange building in New York City Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (AP)

The message may be getting through. So far, officials said Wednesday, New York City has yet to see an uptick in 911 calls related to respiratory issues and cardiac arrests.

More than 400 blazes burning across Canada have left 20,000 people displaced. The US has sent more than 600 firefighters and equipment to Canada. Other countries are also helping.

A man pauses to look at the smoke and haze shrouding One World Trade Center building in New York City, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Intense Canadian wildfires are blanketing the northeastern U.S. in a haze, turning the air acrid and the sky yellowish gray. (AP)
A man pauses to look at the smoke and haze shrouding One World Trade Center building in New York City, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Intense Canadian wildfires are blanketing the northeastern U.S. in a haze, turning the air acrid and the sky yellowish gray. (AP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to President Joe Biden by phone on Wednesday. Trudeau’s office said he thanked Biden for his support and that both leaders “acknowledged the need to work together to address the devastating impacts of climate change.”

An aerial view shows New York City in a haze-filled sky from the Empire State Building observatory, Wednesday, June. 7, 2023, in New York. Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest on Wednesday, covering cities of both nations in an unhealthy haze, holding up flights at major airports and prompting people to fish out pandemic-era face masks. (AP)
An aerial view shows New York City in a haze-filled sky from the Empire State Building observatory, Wednesday, June. 7, 2023, in New York. Smoke from Canadian wildfires poured into the U.S. East Coast and Midwest on Wednesday, covering cities of both nations in an unhealthy haze, holding up flights at major airports and prompting people to fish out pandemic-era face masks. (AP)

Canadian officials say this is shaping up to be the country’s worst wildfire season ever. It started early on drier-than-usual ground and accelerated quickly. Smoke from the blazes has been lapping into the US since last month but intensified with recent fires in Quebec, where about 100 were considered out of control Wednesday.

“I can taste the air,” Dr. Ken Strumpf said in a Facebook post from Syracuse, New York, where the sky took on the colorful nickname of the local university: Orange.

The Statue of Liberty, covered in a haze-filled sky, is photographed from the Staten Island Ferry, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York. (AP)
The Statue of Liberty, covered in a haze-filled sky, is photographed from the Staten Island Ferry, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York. (AP)

The smoke was so thick in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, that office towers just across the Ottawa River were barely visible. In Toronto, Yili Ma said her hiking group canceled a planned hike this week, and she was forgoing the restaurant patios that are a beloved summer tradition in a nation known for hard winters.

“I put my mask away for over a year, and now I’m putting on my mask since yesterday," Ma lamented.

In this aerial image, an aircraft, center, flies near a wildfire burning near Barrington Lake in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP)
In this aerial image, an aircraft, center, flies near a wildfire burning near Barrington Lake in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (AP)

Eastern Quebec got some rain Wednesday, but Montreal-based Environment Canada meteorologist Simon Legault said no significant rain is expected for days in the remote areas of central Quebec where the wildfires are more intense.

The Statue of Liberty, covered in a haze-filled sky, is photographed from the Staten Island Ferry, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York. (AP)
The Statue of Liberty, covered in a haze-filled sky, is photographed from the Staten Island Ferry, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York. (AP)

In the US, federal officials paused some flights bound Wednesday for New York’s LaGuardia Airport and slowed planes to Newark and Philadelphia because smoke was limiting visibility.

New York Yankees' Clarke Schmidt pitches to Chicago White Sox's Tim Anderson during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in New York. (AP)
New York Yankees' Clarke Schmidt pitches to Chicago White Sox's Tim Anderson during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in New York. (AP)

Major League Baseball’s Yankees and Phillies had their games postponed. On Broadway, “Hamilton” and “Camelot” canceled Wednesday performances and “Prima Facie” star Jodie Comer left a matinee after 10 minutes because of difficulty breathing. The show restarted with an understudy, show publicists said.

New York City is seen, in a haze-filled sky, photographed from Staten Island Ferry, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York. (AP)
New York City is seen, in a haze-filled sky, photographed from Staten Island Ferry, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in New York. (AP)

It was not to be at Central Park’s outdoor stage, either. Shakespeare in the Park canceled its Thursday and Friday performances of “Hamlet,” saying ‘tis not nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of wretched air.

Read more:

Biden speaks to Canada’s Trudeau, offers wildfire support: White House

Wildfire smoke from Canada delays New York, Philadelphia flights

Canada’s Quebec seeks international support to battle more than 160 forest fires

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