New York airports issues flight warning as thick smoke from Canadian wildfires clouds skyline
Hazardous levels of pollution have been hit in central New York and north-eastern Pennsylvania
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Smoke from out-of-control wildfires blazing in Canada has drifted across many areas of the northeastern US, with air quality in the state of New York now at hazardous levels.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) paused some flights bound for LaGuardia Airport and slowed planes to Newark Liberty due to poor visibility, warning passengers to expect long delays.
Around 800 flights into New York have been delayed since the early hours of Thursday (8 June) morning, according to Flight Aware.
The FAA also slowed planes from the East Coast and Midwest bound for Philadelphia International Airport because the wildfire smoke was limiting visibility. It also contributed to delayed arrivals at Dulles International Airport outside Washington.
The cloudy haze engulfed famous landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square and postponed Major League Baseball games in New York and Philadelphia, as well as calling off an indoor WNBA game in Brooklyn.
The smoke also affected Broadway in New York, where Killing Eve star Jodie Comer left the matinee after 10 minutes after having difficulty breathing. The show then restarted with an understudy, show publicists said.
Air quality warnings are currently in place in Canada, New York and north-eastern Pennsylvania, with people advised to limit outdoor activity as much as possible. The unhealthy air also extended as far as North Carolina and Indiana, affecting millions of people.
Canadian officials have asked other countries for additional help fighting more than 400 blazes nationwide that have already displaced 20,000 people in what it says is shaping up to be its worst wildfire season ever.
Wildfires broke out earlier this year due to drier-than-usual land and accelerated very quickly, exhausting firefighting resources across the country, fire and environmental officials said.
Smoke from the blazes in various parts of the country has been lapping into the US since last month but intensified with a recent spate of fires in Quebec, where about 100 were considered out of control on Wednesday (7 June).
Quebec premier Francois Legault said the province currently has the capacity to fight about 40 fires and the usual reinforcements from other provinces have been strained by conflagrations in Nova Scotia and elsewhere.
Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre spokesperson Jennifer Kamau said more than 950 firefighters and other personnel have already arrived from the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and more will be arriving soon.
Meanwhile in Washington, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden has sent more than 600 firefighters and equipment to Canada and his administration has contacted some US governors and local officials about providing assistance.
The largest town in Northern Quebec — Chibougamau, with a population of about 7,500 — was evacuated on Tuesday (6 June), and Legault said the roughly 4,000 residents of the northern Cree town Mistissini would likely have to leave on Wednesday.
Eastern Quebec did see some rain on Wednesday, but Montreal-based Environment Canada meteorologist Simon Legault said no significant downpours are expected for days in the remote areas of central Quebec where the wildfires are more intense.
U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist Zach Taylor said the current weather pattern in the central and eastern US is essentially funnelling in the smoke.
Across the border, New York governor Kathy Hochul warned the public to “prepare for this over the long haul.” New York City mayor Eric Adams told residents of the US’ most populous city to limit outdoor activities, while parks officials closed beaches as smoke engulfed the skyline.