Wildfire Season Threatens Canadian Infrastructure and American Lungs as Smoke Drifts South
Millions in the U.S. Northeast are digging out their N-95 masks to cope with the hazardous atmosphere brought on by wildfires in Canada.
Canada’s eastern provinces are dealing with the worst-ever start to wildfire season, with about 9.4 million acres already lost – 15 times the average. Quebec is among the worst areas affected, dealing with the resulting threats to critical infrastructure and power lines. Canadian firefighters, aided by U.S. volunteers, have been busy containing some 150 blazes there.
The U.S. is also feeling the effects, as more than a dozen states along the Atlantic seaboard are under air-quality alerts as smoke has drifted south. AccuWeather has reported that this is the worst outbreak of wildfire smoke to drape across the region in more than 20 years. By Wednesday night, New York City had the worst air quality of any city in the world.
In some areas, the air quality index was well above 400, well above the “hazardous” rating of 300.
Not only has it had an immediate health effect on its citizens – with alerts ranging from orange (primarily hazardous to children and the elderly) to red (harmful for everyone) – it’s also creating knock-on effects, slowing air travel due to poor visibility, closing school activities, postponing sporting events, and even putting a halt to a Broadway show when its star Jodie Comer had difficulty breathing.
While the smoke is expected to clear as the days pass and air currents push it towards the sea, the experience has given east coast residents a sample of what west coasters have been experiencing for years, and as climate change continues to wreak havoc, this is unlikely to be the last time.