Wildfire smoke is blanketing the East Coast. Californians have some tips

Buildings in lower Manhattan in New York are partially obscured by smoke from Canadian wildfires on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

(Patrick Sison/AP)

Wildfire smoke is blanketing the East Coast. Californians have some tips


Alexandra E. Petri

June 7, 2023

Download smartphone apps to monitor the air quality index. Buy some air purifiers. Put on that KN95 mask. Just because you cant see the threat doesnt mean its not there.

This is just some of the wisdom West Coasters who have long lived with the danger of wildfires offered their East Coast counterparts Wednesday, as residents along the Eastern seaboard faced another dizzying day of hazy skies due to smoke and air pollution from wildfires burning in Canada.

Tens of millions of Americans were under air quality alerts Wednesday morning, stretching from parts of western Missouri to New York, from Maine down to South Carolina, where particulate levels were expected to enter unhealthful territory, and many residents experienced the scratchy throats and irritated eyes and lungs that wildfire smoke can cause.

As of 3 p.m. EDT, the

IQAir World Air Quality Index ranked

New York City No. 1 for the worst air quality on the planet for the second straight day, ahead of global cities including New Delhi, India, where such conditions are more common. The air quality index in New York spiked to 324, according to AirNow.Gov, which offers real-time tracking of AQI


Values of 151 to 200 are considered unhealthy, where a range in which some people may experience health effects and members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. to the IQAir World Air Quality Index


Photos showed a

thick smoke settled over midtown Manhattan by midday

, casting the city in a deep orange, apocalyptic glow. By 3 p.m. EDT, The sky in New York grew more ominous and darker throughout the early afternoon as smoke overpowered much of the city and shrouded the five boroughs in a deep, orange glow. of lower Manhattan was shrouded under a deep orange atmosphere, and

thick smoke had settled over midtown Manhattan

. New Yorkers said the smell of smoke across the city was so overwhelming they could not step outside without coughing.The air quality index in New York spiked to 324, according to AirNow.Gov, which offers real-time tracking of AQI.The levels were slightly better than those on Tuesday evening,

when New York ranked No. 1 for the worlds worst air pollution

, ahead of global cities, including New Delhi, India. Conditions were expected to worsen throughout the day, affecting visibility and putting residents at risk.

At a news conference Wednesday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams advised vulnerable residents, including older New Yorkers, those with heart and breathing problems and children, to stay indoors and to wear high-quality KN95 masks if they needed to venture outside. The citys public schools remained open Wednesday but canceled field trips and other outdoor activities.

All New Yorkers should limit outdoor activity to the greatest extent possible, Adams said, emphasizing that it’s not the day to “train for a marathon.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York also advised residents statewide to stay at home if possible and for school districts across the state to keep kids indoors, citing concerns over air pollution. In other parts of the state, the AQI hit hazardous levels, the highest category at values of 301 or higher. In Binghamton, which registered 400 AQI before midday, visibility was reduced to just one mile.

The smoke threatening New York and other parts of the northeast has drifted from Canada, where 149 active wildfires are scorching the forests around the eastern province of Quebec. High temperatures and dry conditions, along with lightning, ignited the fires, which swelled over the weekend.

An area of low pressure hanging over northern New England is directing the airflow, said John Cristantello, a meteorologist for the National Weather Services New York City office.

The weather pattern is such that the winds just keep funneling down, from generally, north to south, Cristantello said. Were sort of a target for the smoke that comes from these fires.

Across social media, New Yorkers posted photos of their otherworldy city cast in deep orange, the blood red sunrises and sunsets reminiscent of the skies around Northern California in 2020, when smoke from a variety of fires blanketed the region.

Your questions about air quality answered

Residents of New York, many of them unfamiliar with the effects of exposure to wildfire smoke, described the smell of smoke and wrote about their irritated eyes and throats.

For Sherelle Johnson, a copywriter based in Riverside, the smoky, orange scenes coming out of New York reminded her of the 2020 El Dorado fire, sparked by a gender reveal gone wrong.

“[California] has been through the wildfire season. We have it every year, but not every place has it so bad,” Johnson said, adding the El Dorado fire was especially scary and felt like unchartered territory, even for the most experienced. So Johnson shared tips on Twitter, including advising car owners and homeowners to replace their air filters, now and after the fires.

“Theyre doing some heavy lifting right now and you want them effective, Johnson said. Other tips included keeping windows closed, downloading smartphone apps that measure AQI and making sure to stay hydrated, including for your pets.

S.E. Smith, a Northern California-based writer and journalist, cautioned East Coasters against not taking measures to prepare.

Wildfire smoke doesn’t have to be visible to hurt your lungs, S.E. Smith wrote on Twitter. Mask up, use an air purifier, and stay indoors if you can. If you feel tired, cranky, or out of sorts, you are probably feeling the smoke!