The skies in the Eastern U.S. were starting to become clearer Friday, after smoke from the worst wildfires in Canadian history enveloped the region.
Air quality has already improved in most areas, including New York City, with levels falling into the moderate range. Only a few parts of eastern Maryland and Cape Cod in Massachusetts are continuing to see unhealthy amounts of pollution, according to airnow.gov.
“This morning, at least, we are looking at much better conditions,” said Zack Taylor, a senior branch forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center. “Today will not be as bad as what we have had the last couple of days.”
Rain expected in some regions on Sunday should also help dissipate the smoke, according to the National Weather Service.
Still, hundreds of fires continue to burn in Canada, with the effect rippling south, threatening flights, canceling events and forcing millions of people to mask up or stay indoors. Air Quality Alerts are in place from Indiana to Massachusetts, and down to South Carolina. Similar warnings have been posted across parts of Quebec and Ontario.
Conditions should gradually improve through the weekend as the stuck weather pattern responsible for pumping the thick plumes of smoke south into the U.S. from fires in Quebec breaks up, Taylor said.
There will still be hazy skies and possibly some bouts of smoke, but New York and other major cities may have seen the worst for now.
“We’re not expecting any of the deep, really bad conditions that we saw on Wednesday or Thursday,” Taylor said. “Today doesn’t look to be as concentrated, at least for the big cities in the I-95 corridor.”
New York City’s air quality level was “moderate” as of 2 a.m. Eastern time, according to data from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. That was the first time since Monday that the city’s air quality has been at that level.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said Thursday the U.S. would “respond promptly” to any Canadian requests for firefighters and air tankers.
“Since May, more than 600 US firefighters, support personnel, and firefighting assets have been deployed, working alongside Canadian firefighters to tackle what is likely to be the worst fire season in Canadian history, and one that has huge impacts here in the United States,” Biden said in a statement.
Mask unit sales rose nearly 1,500% starting Monday at Rite Aid Corp. stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, a spokesperson said in an email late Thursday.
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said it saw higher sales of masks, humidifiers, vaporizers and over-the-counter asthma inhalers on Wednesday, versus the day before. CVS Health Corp. stores experienced increased demand for items like masks and air filters.
Northwell Health, New York state’s largest health-care provider, saw a mild increase in respiratory illnesses Thursday, spokesman Matt Libassi said. The increase was more significant at Northwell’s locations in New York City. At Lenox Health Greenwich Village, for example, the number of asthma treatments were more than double the average, Libassi said.