Due to haze and smoke conditions caused by raging wildfires in eastern Canada, air quality in the local region has deteriorated to the point of it being considered unhealthy for all people.
The Air Quality Index has reached 170 across Suffolk County (as of 3 p.m.), according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Yesterday’s peak was 153. Both are significantly higher that what was forecast early in the morning on both days, when state health and environmental officials issued an air quality health advisory for the region. An AQI of over 100 prompts the issuance of an air quality health advisory for either ground-level ozone (smog) or fine particulate matter (solid or liquid particles of 2.5 microns or smaller.)
AQI readings in the five boroughs of New York City have reached the mid-180s this afternoon, according to the EPA’s AirNow website. AQI readings have soared into the 220s in parts of Upstate, including the state capital.
Exposure to fine particulates can cause short-term health effects for everyone, including irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Children and people with preexisting heart or breathing problems are especially sensitive to the pollutants in the air, according to health officials. Riverhead schools and the town’s recreation department have canceled outdoor activities today due to the air quality health advisory in effect.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement this afternoon that, “according to the most recent forecast, much of the state outside of the North Country is expected to be in an air quality index of unhealthy to very unhealthy today.”
Hochul said she strongly urges school districts to suspend outdoor school activities today.
“Please take steps to stay safe. Stay indoors if possible and limit strenuous activities,” Hochul said on Twitter.
Riverhead School Superintendent Augustine Tornatore said the Riverhead school district has canceled outside recess and other outdoor activities and sporting events today, including Aquebogue Elementary School’s field day, because of the smoke in the air.
A Riley Avenue Elementary School class trip scheduled for today was allowed to continue, Torantore said, and a nurse was assigned to the trip. Students on that trip also have the option of being indoors, he said. Tornatore said students authorized to leave the high school for lunch will be allowed to leave and that staff are warning them of the advisory.
The Town of Riverhead has closed all parks and outdoor recreation facilities today and all outdoor programs are canceled, Riverhead Recreation Superintendent Ray Coyne said. The recreation department also canceled outdoor programs yesterday.
Town employees who work outdoors were not called inside as of 2 p.m.
The current air quality health advisory remains in effect until midnight tonight.
National Weather Service forecasters said to expect “low visibilities, poor air quality, and smell of smoke… into this evening.” The smoke has become thick enough that it is preventing “full solar insolation,” that is, air at ground level being warmed by the sun.
Northwest winds will shift to a more westerly direction this afternoon, according to the forecast discussion issued by the NWS in Upton. Wind gusts may bring down some of the smoke
to the surface rather than mix it out, forecasters warned.
The AQI for tomorrow is forecast to be in the unhealthy range across the region, according to the EPA AirNow website. Winds tomorrow are forecast to become southerly later in the afternoon, which should bring relief from the smoke plume that has blanketed the Long Island region.
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