Wildfires’ haze continues to push toward Georgia, South Carolina

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 3:46 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - More smoke from Canadian wildfires is expected to drift into Georgia and South Carolina on Friday, but the effects here won’t be anything like what people are seeing in New York.

In the past couple of days, New York City has had the worst air quality of anywhere in the world, and people there are being urged to wear K-95 masks.

In Georgia, it means a bit of a haze and a colorful sunset, but not the conditions they’re seeing up north.

A Code Orange Alert has been issued for the Greater metro Atlanta area as smoke from more than 400 fires across Canada flows over the United States.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is seeing worse conditions, prompting are-quality alerts in some areas.

Elsewhere in the U.S.

The weather system driving the smoke — a low-pressure system over Maine and Nova Scotia — extended “Code Red” air quality alerts in some places as forecasts showed winds continuing to push smoke-filled air south.

U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Ramsey said that means the smoke will probably be hanging around for a few days.

“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.”

The smoke-clogged air has created eerily silhouetted skylines as it chased players from ballfields, actors from Broadway stages, delayed thousands of flights and sparked a resurgence in mask wearing and remote work.

The smoke has moved over Greenland and Iceland since June 1, and was expected to reach Norway on Thursday, the Norwegian Climate and Environmental Research Institute said, but wasn’t expected to be a health concern.

In Washington D.C., the roads were unusually clear as many stayed home and about half the people on the streets wore their pandemic-era masks.

In suburban Philadelphia, officials set up an emergency shelter so people living outside can take refuge from the haze.

New York City is seeing a “higher than usual” number of asthma-related visits to the emergency room, city Health Department spokesperson Pedro Frisneda said Thursday, estimating they were in the “low hundreds.”

Federal officials delayed some flights bound Thursday morning for New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia because smoke was limiting visibility. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that it will likely need to take steps to manage the flow of air traffic into Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C., as well.