Meteorologists say wildfire smoke blanketing the Midwest and Northeastern US is the worst smoke outbreak in more than 20 years!
“As bad as the smoke and air pollution was on Tuesday, the air quality can be even worse at times across parts of the Northeast on Wednesday and poor air quality is expected to linger in some areas into the weekend,” said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter.
The smoke has been generated by numerous, large wildfires burning in the Canadian province of Quebec, and atmospheric winds are directing the smoke across areas of the US west of the Mississippi, particularly New England and even into the upper south.
Unlike other wildfire smoke episodes in the Northeast, where the smoke was primarily present well above the ground, only resulting in hazy skies and more vivid sunrises and sunsets, the smoke in recent days has also been at ground level resulting in poor air quality, low visibility, and serious health risks to people, especially those outdoors.
Areas as far west as St. Louis and Kansas City also saw bands of smoke drift across their skies, with local meteorologists issuing air quality warnings.
Air quality rapidly worsened in the corridor from the New York City area to Eastern Pennsylvania late Tuesday into Wednesday, with some air quality observation sites appearing to report their highest concentration of harmful particulate pollution in the air since 1999.
How long will it last?
The smoke will continue shifting west over the next few days.
“Later this weekend into early next week, a storm moving through the Ohio Valley may cause the smoke to wrap westward across the Great Lakes and then southward through the Ohio Valley and into the mid-Atlantic,” says AccuWeather Director of Forecasting Operation Dan DePodwin. “This behavior – where a storm ‘ingests’ smoke and transports it far away from the fires – occurred in May with fires in Alberta and can result in a ‘smoke storm.'”
Unfortunately, significant rain is not expected across the wildfire areas, although on-and-off showers can occur Thursday through Saturday, which may aid in fire-fighting efforts. A higher likelihood of meaningful rain is expected on Monday. The fires may burn for a significant period of time and continue to loft smoke, creating the opportunity for time periods where smoke can return to parts of the Eastern US over the coming weeks and even months.
Porter says people should frequently check the AccuWeather exclusive Plume Labs air quality maps at https://www.accuweather.