Our live coverage has moved. You can follow the latest updates on air quality across the US and Canada here.
Smoke creeping down from the Quebec wildfires is going to continue, turning the sky an eerie orange along with it. And there’s not much anyone can do about it.
Here's what you should know:
How long will this last? CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray said on “CNN News Central” Wednesday that "this could be something we deal with off and on throughout the remainder of the summer."
“Canada is still early in their fire season, and it has just exploded; while some days might be better than others, this could be a problem we’re talking about long term,” she added.
Why is it happening? We are essentially stuck in a weather pattern, said Gray, pointing to an area of high pressure to the northwest of the Great Lakes.
“It’s channeling these winds out of the north and bringing the smoke in day after day,” she said. “Until this big weather pattern decides to shift and we get a change in wind direction, the smoke is going to stick around.”
The smoke could also move more toward the Midwest and the Ohio Valley before swinging back toward the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.
Why on the East Coast? The North American West has become much more accustomed to wildfire smoke in recent years. Last year, it was Europe suffering. This year, smoke is hurting the East Coast. While this year could be relatively quiet for the Southwest, the National Interagency Fire Center predicts above-normal fire activity in the Pacific Northwest through September and in the Northeast through August.
A new normal. The United Nations warned last year that the number of extreme wildfires will jump 14% by 2030 and 30% by 2050. The world must “learn to live with fire,” according to that report from the UN Environment Programme.
While the Northeast is currently dealing with smoke from wildfires, it is the portion of the country in the least danger from wildfires themselves. In coming decades, more and more of the country, particularly in the Southwest, will become susceptible to wildfires, according to data from the nonprofit First Street Foundation analyzed by The Washington Post last year.
Officials in Monroe County, New York, closed facilities and canceled an event Wednesday due to poor air quality in the area.
“With an Air Quality Health Alert in effect for Monroe County, I have closed the Seneca Park Zoo and all county parks including the Genesee Valley, Durand Eastman and Churchville golf courses," Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said on Twitter Wednesday. "Please limit your exposure to outdoor air today and stay indoors if possible.”
The Seneca Park Zoo staff moved many animals indoors and all employees who worked outdoors were reassigned to indoor tasks, according to a county statement. A concert scheduled for Wednesday night at Ontario Beach Park was also canceled.
Monroe County is located northeast of Buffalo and encompasses the city of Rochester.
Air quality conditions are expected to improve overnight in New York City before deteriorating again Thursday afternoon and evening, Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday.
“I want to be clear, while there may be potential for significantly improved conditions by Friday morning, smoke predictability that far out is low, is difficult to predict the movement of the smoke…this is an unpredictable series of events,” he added.
The air quality index (AQI) hit 484 at 5 p.m. ET today, Adams said, reiterating his remarks this morning that the city has not seen air quality levels like this since the 1960s. New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zachary Iscol said AQI levels above 300 are "considered hazardous."
The mayor cautioned that it’s hard to forecast the path of the smoke and how long it might stay in and around the city.
He said all city events outdoors would be canceled and urged others to follow suit. City beaches will also remain closed, he said.
Delaware is among northeastern states advising residents to be cautious when going outdoors due to poor air quality conditions from Canadian wildfires.
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) issued an alert due to the unhealthy air quality that is expected Wednesday and Thursday throughout the state.
All residents are advised to limit time spent outdoors and to stay indoors, preferably in a space with filtered air, a release from the DNREC says.
“Wildfires in eastern Canada are emitting particulate matter into the atmosphere, affecting air quality throughout the northeast, including in Delaware,” the release says. As a result of the particulate matter, a “Code Red Action Day” is in effect for Wednesday and Thursday for the state.
N95 makes are recommended for those who must go outside, the department said. The DNREC also urges residents to avoid spraying aerosol products, frying or broiling meat, and avoiding vacuuming as it will stir up particles inside a home.
New York state is making one million N95 masks available to the public due to the ongoing poor air quality from Canadian wildfires, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday evening.
Approximately 400,000 N95 masks will be distributed at New York state parks, MTA stations and other locations, such as the Javits Center and Port Authority Bus Station in New York City, Hochul said at a press briefing. An additional 600,000 masks will be made available at Homeland Security stockpiles for local governments to pick up, she said.
Hochul called the poor air quality “unprecedented” and “a very serious, dangerous situation.” She recommended that people across New York state cancel outdoor activities.
“Simply stay indoors. Outdoors is dangerous in just about every part of our state,” the governor said.
Hochul also noted that some of the highest poor air quality indexes (AQI) have been recorded in New York City on Wednesday. While a normal AQI is 50, Brooklyn recorded an AQI of 413 and Queens recorded an AQI of 407, marking an 800% increase over what is considered a safe air quality level, Hochul said.
The governor added that the “plume” is expected to head westward into Buffalo and other parts of western New York Thursday, hopefully abating over the weekend.
Officials at the briefing said they have been monitoring any potential upticks in respiratory illnesses or health issues due to the poor air quality, but that no spikes have yet been reported, Hochul said.
CNN’s Zenebou Sylla contributed to this report.
Rhode Island is extending the state’s air quality alert through Thursday, citing heavy smoke and unhealthy particles on the Air Quality Index.
“The heavy smoke will continue to impact Rhode Island on Thursday with wood burning odors, haze, and unhealthy fine particles readings throughout the day,” the state’s Department of Environmental Management said in a statement.
The Rhode Island Department of Health continues to recommend people stay indoors but if they have to go outside, they encourage residents to wear N95 masks, do less strenuous outdoor activities and shorten the amount of time they are outside, according to the statement.
Professional sports teams are postponing games as smoke from Canadian wildfires blanket the US Northeast.
The Women's National Basketball Association said the smoke is impacting the New York Liberty's home arena — so much so that the league has postponed Wednesday's game between the Liberty and Minnesota Lynx scheduled to be held at the Barclays Center.
The WNBA said information on the rescheduled date of the game will be provided at a later date.
The National Women's Soccer League also postponed the Challenge Cup match scheduled for Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, between the Orlando Pride and NJ/NY Gotcham FC.
"The safety of our players, officials and fans is our top priority," the league said in a statement. "Following consultation with the NWSL Medical and Operations staff, it was determined that the match could not be safely conducted based on the projected air quality index."
The match is rescheduled for August 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET, the NWSL said.
Major League Baseball also postponed two games Wednesday due to the air quality in New York and Philadelphia.
And the wildfire smoke also forced the closure of at least three horse racing tracks on the US East Coast. The New York Racing Association also canceled a training scheduled for Thursday due to air quality conditions.
Schools across the Northeast are canceling outdoor activities on Wednesday due to poor air quality. Here are some of the announcements:
New York: New York City's public schools are open but will be canceling all outdoor events, the school district said in a statement on its website.
Chappaqua Central School District in Westchester County, New York, is dismissing all of its students early on Wednesday due to the ongoing air quality conditions, according to an announcement on the district’s website. While a Board of Education meeting will proceed as scheduled, all after-school activities have been canceled, the district said.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is urging other school districts across the state to also cancel their outdoor activities, according to a statement from her office.
"My administration has been in contact with the cities of Syracuse, Rochester and New York. I support their decisions and the decisions of other districts to suspend outdoor school activities and strongly urge those who have not yet done so to follow suit,” Hochul said.
Washington, DC: Public schools canceled outdoor activities Wednesday. "This includes recess, outdoor Physical Education classes, athletic practices and competitions, and any school-specific events or field trips intended for the outdoors," DC Public Schools said in a tweet. The city is noticeably smoky throughout the area due to wildfires in Canada.
Montgomery County, Maryland: Outdoor activities are canceled for Wednesday and Thursday, and any field trips will need to be rescheduled, according to a message from the school district. The county includes several suburbs of Washington, DC, including Bethesda and Rockville. The public school district has over 158,000 students and is the largest school system in Maryland.
Fairfax County, Virginia: All afternoon and evening outdoor activities for the Fairfax County Public School District in Virginia have been canceled Wednesday, due to ongoing poor air quality, according to an announcement on the school district’s website.
The activities include extracurriculars, interscholastic contests, team practices, after-school programs and recreation programs, the district said.