Northern US smoky from Canadian wildfires

(Chicago) Smoke from wildfires burning across Canada is creating haze curtains and raising air quality concerns across the Great Lakes region and parts of central and eastern the United States.

In Minnesota, a 23e A record air quality alert was issued Tuesday through Wednesday evening across much of the state, as smoky skies obscured the skylines of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“Just walking into the zoo…you could just see around the buildings, kind of a haze,” said Shelly Woinowski, who was visiting Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Further into town, Priti Marwah, who was starting a run along the town’s lake, described the mist on Tuesday as “bad”.

“You can smell the smoke,” she noted. I run a hundred miles a week, so it’s going to be dangerous today. You can feel it…even just parking there and getting out, I can feel it in my lungs. »

Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy issued a statewide air quality alert on Tuesday, while in Chicago – where air quality air has been categorized as “unhealthy” by the US Environmental Protection Agency – officials are urging young, elderly adults and residents with health conditions to stay indoors.

“We recommend that children, teenagers, the elderly, people with heart or lung conditions and pregnant women avoid strenuous activities and limit their time outdoors,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement. . As these dangerous conditions continue, the City will continue to provide updates and take prompt action to ensure vulnerable people have the resources they need to protect themselves and their families. »

Some Chicago-area daycares advised parents that their children would stay indoors Tuesday due to poor air quality, while a youth sports club adjusted activities to add more outdoor time. inside.

The smoke pushed south

Earlier this month, massive fires scorching swathes of Canadian forests blanketed the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region, turning the air yellowish gray and prompting people to stay indoors and to keep the windows closed.

The small particles in wildfire smoke can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and can affect the heart and lungs, making it harder to breathe. Health officials say it’s important to limit outdoor activities as much as possible to avoid breathing in these particles.

Fires in northern Quebec and low pressure east of the Great Lakes are sending smoke into northern Michigan and southern Wisconsin and Chicago, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bryan Jackson.

He said a north wind will push the smoke further south, moving into Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky later Tuesday and overnight.

Southwest Michigan has a high air quality index, above 200 on a 500-point index, he noted. This is considered unhealthy for everyone, as it denotes high levels of fine particulate pollution, or PM2.5 particles.

“Until the fires are put out, there is a risk, warned Mr. Jackson. If the wind is blowing from the North, there is a chance that there will be smoke. »

In early June, US President Joe Biden said in a statement that hundreds of US firefighters and support personnel had been in Canada since May, and drew attention to the fires as a reminder of the impacts of climate change.

According to Joel Thornton, professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, the warming planet will produce hotter and longer heat waves, causing bigger and smokier fires.

Smoke from the wildfires moved into Minnesota Monday evening, and smoke at ground level is expected to persist in southern, east-central and northeastern Minnesota. This includes the Twin Cities area, down to the northeast corner of the state, and down to the southwest and southeast corners.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) posted on Twitter that Tuesday marked the 23e air quality alert in Minnesota this year, breaking the previous record of 21 in 2021. Minnesota typically averages two or three alerts per season.

St. Paul recorded the worst air quality in the United States two weeks ago due to smoke from wildfires in Canada. As of noon on Tuesday, air quality was deemed “unhealthy” in eastern Minnesota, from the Canadian border to the Iowa border.

The MPCA said a cold front will move through Minnesota on Wednesday, bringing cleaner westerly air through the region by early Thursday.

But on Tuesday, the respite to come meant little to Dan Daley, a resident of St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

“It’s a bit miserable some days because you can’t spend a lot of time outside,” he lamented.

Mr Daley said he smelled – and tasted – smoke in the air when he left the house this morning. He saw hazy skies and wondered if that would be the norm for future summers in the area. When the air quality makes it unhealthy to be outdoors, Mr. Daley struggles to do the things he loves like hiking, camping and city walks.

He’s worried that people in other parts of the country who haven’t had days of poor air quality think it’s no big deal. “If they think the smoke isn’t so bad, they should come here and see it for themselves,” he said.

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