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Climate

The Smoke Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Here’s your smokecast.

Manhattan.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Nearly one in three Americans woke up to air quality alerts on Wednesday as smoke from the Canadian wildfires billowed across the eastern United States. The choking cloud stretches from Maine to South Carolina and as far east as Minnesota, smothering Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis. And with AQIs topping 160, Detroit and New York City had the second and third worst air quality, respectively, of any major cities in the world on Wednesday morning.

Wildfire smoke is dangerous to breathe — so dangerous that New York City is urging at-risk residents to wear N95 or KN95 masks outdoors and public schools across the tri-state area have canceled all outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Here is your smokecast for the coming days:

New York City and the Tri-State Region

Smoke is expected to continue to linger through the end of the week with the city extending its air quality alert through Friday. More immediately, New Yorkers can expect the haze to worsen on Wednesday afternoon, especially after 2 p.m., and potentially thicken into the night.

Air quality is “expected to remain poor” on Thursday since a low-pressure front off the coast of Maine is ushering Canadian smoke into the tri-state area region. The Fox Weather models also show “a lot of smoke for the Northeast all the way through Friday” and Accuweather expects that by Saturday, “winds may send some smoke farther east once again.”

A weekend storm could finally break the chokehold the smoke has over the east: “By Sunday night we should start to see improvement as a new storm system from the west” changes the wind direction, a Fox meteorologist told the New York Post.

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  • Upstate New York

    Being closer to the Canadian border, upstate New York has seen some of the most eye-popping AQI readings of the current smoke event:

    The local Minor League Baseball team, the Syracuse Mets, called off a Tuesday night game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and postponed a Wednesday day game to the evening in the hopes the air will be clearer later in the day. They may be left waiting. According to Syracuse.com, “The weather pattern should begin to shift Thursday, bringing winds from the west instead of the north and clearing the air in Upstate New York by the weekend.” Rain in the next few days, though, could help alleviate some of the worst pollution.

    New England

    The low-pressure system off of Maine will keep smoke funneling toward the tri-state area for a few days yet, but it offers some protection for northeastern New England. Though it was smoky on Wednesday morning, forecasts show that the smoke will start to thin by Wednesday afternoon:

    The Capital Region

    It’d have been a “gorgeous” day in D.C. if it “weren’t for the smoke,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday morning. A Code Orange air quality alert was in effect — the first since 2016 — with smoke expected to worsen in the Capital Region on Wednesday night.

    There is also the potential for a Code Red alert on Thursday, which is issued when smoke conditions are unhealthy for all groups and the AQI is over 150. Potential showers on Friday could help suppress pollutants.

    Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit

    Relief from the smoke is expected to come for the seaboard states by the end of the week … but only because the weather patterns will push smoke toward their western neighbors. On Thursday and Friday, air quality could become worse in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit, Accuweather reports.

    Everywhere else

    The movement of smoke is famously tricky to predict, but there are a few different models you can use to keep an eye on your area. Here are the models for the next day from the FireSmoke Canada website, which tracks PM2.5 smoke particles at ground level from wildfires across North America. Check the FireSmoke Canada website or NOAA models for the most up-to-date forecasts and keep in mind that, like forecasting the weather, these are not guarantees. Err on the side of caution and protect yourself.

    The model for 2 p.m. on June 7. Darker colors indicate higher PM2.5 levels, the particles associated with wildfire smoke. The numbered circles refer to the number of regional wildfires.FireSmoke Canada

    The model for 9 p.m. on June 7.FireSmoke Canada

    The model for 9 a.m. on June 8.FireSmoke Canada

    The model for 9 p.m. on June 8.FireSmoke Canada

    Read more about the wildfire smoke engulfing the eastern United States:

    Your Plants Are Going to Be Okay.

    Why Are the Canadian Wildfires So Bad This Year?

    How to Stay Safe from Wildfire Smoke Indoors

    Wildfire Smoke Is a Wheezy Throwback for New York City

    Wednesday Was the Worst Day for Wildfire Pollution in U.S. History

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    Jeva Lange profile image

    Jeva Lange

    Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

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