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New York City Mayor Urges Citizens To Wear Masks For “Unprecedented” Smoke

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New York City Mayor Urges Citizens To Wear Masks For 'Unprecedented' Smoke

In a city where emergencies rarely affect the steady flow of commerce, the metropolis came to a near standstill in the face of what local officials called an “unprecedented event.”

Heavy smoke from hundreds of Canadian wildfires drifted South, creating an apocalyptic orange fog enveloping much of the state and neighboring regions, as far south as Mexico.

“This is not the day to train for a marathon or to do an outside event for your children,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference Wednesday, urging people to remain indoors or don N95 masks.

The smoke briefly halted inbound flights to LaGuardia Airport as visibility diminished and some of the region’s ports were shut. Outdoor activities at city schools were canceled and children at some schools in the region were sent home masked. New York’s gala scene took a hit with an outdoor food tasting event featuring 40 restaurants hosted by the Central Park Conservancy halted.

Baseball fans were also left disappointed with the New York Yankees postponing its game against the Chicago White Sox Wednesday night with the strange fog hovering over the Bronx, while the Philadelphia Phillies halted its game against Detroit.

These sort of apocalyptic scenes have played out frequently in recent years in North America as climate change has contributed to more frequent and more extreme blazes.

On the West Coast, historic wildfires blanketed much of Northern California in smoke in recent years and turned San Francisco’s skies orange in 2020. Prior wildfires in Alberta resulted in plumes of smoke that reached New York, but only produced dazzling sunsets.

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But this year’s infernos, which have struck in Alberta and Quebec, are stunning and perplexing New Yorkers who have enjoyed improving air quality over the past decade.

The smoke is filling the air with dangerous levels of fine particulate matter and according to state officials created the worst air conditions in New York state in more than 20 years. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country is living through its “worst wildfire season” in recorded history.

Conditions are forecast to temporarily improve later tonight and tomorrow morning, before they deteriorate again, Adams said in his press conference, describing the air quality as the worst in decades.

By one measure, air quality in New York is currently the worst of any major city in the world, according to IQAir, a pollution mapping tool. Adams urged New Yorkers to stay inside, keep their windows closed, and turn off settings on their air conditioners that circulate air from outside.

Airborne particles and toxins can cause complications for patients with lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well as cardiovascular illness, and can be more serious for young children and older people. 

The Health Department also warned that air quality issues impact animals differently and ordered a work suspension for the city’s carriage horses and recommended owners minimize time outdoors with their pets. 

New Yorkers blanketed social media Wednesday afternoon with pictures of the city as few could recall seeing it before – with its landmark buildings and bridges rapidly becoming invisible beneath the curtain of thick smog. Shortly after noon, the Statue of Liberty, typically visible on a clear summer day in June, looked like a dark smudge on the horizon when viewed from the Hudson River shoreline in lower Manhattan.  

By Wednesday afternoon, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation had issued a health advisory for every region in the entire state, except the Adirondacks, warning the air quality will reach “unhealthy” levels that could remain through all of Thursday. 

Governor Kathy Hochul urged school districts statewide to cancel any outdoor events or sports practices if they hadn’t already.

“People need to prepare for this as a long haul,” Hochul said. She tweeted that the state will be making 1 million N95 masks available.

“Yesterday New Yorkers saw and smelled something that has never impacted us on this scale before,” Adams said. “As I was out walking the streets clearly we knew something was happening that was beyond normal.”

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