Federal authorities temporarily paused flights bound to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport from the Northeast, Ohio and Mid-Atlantic on Thursday morning due to “reduced visibility” from wildfire smoke smothering the East Coast.
Departures were delayed by an average of 54 minutes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency said the delays would not exceed 1 hour and 34 minutes.
Newark Liberty International Airport, another nearby major travel hub, also announced delays for flights inbound nationwide. The airport announced that the “current smoke condition” may impact flights and urged travellers to check with their airlines “to determine the status of your flight.”
Wind patterns bringing smoke across the northeast “could impact travel through the airports,” according to FAA traffic management officer Samuel Ausby. More than 16,200 flights have been delayed and 79 flights were canceled by 1pm on Wednesday (7 June). according to FlightAware.
Yellowing and ashen skies from eye-watering smoke triggered air quality alerts across the region as wildfire smoke drifting from Canada sparked hazardous air conditions across the northeastern US. Thirteen states have issued air quality alerts, covering an area with roughly 100 million people.
Smoke was expected to reach as far south as South Carolina. Thick smoke was expected to drift across New York City and Philadelphia through Wednesday.
New York City’s air quality index surpassed 400 on Wednesday, with the worst conditions in the world.
The city’s health commissioner Ashwin Vasan told reporters on Wednesday that the city’s air quality is at its worst since the 1960s, with conditions expected to last through several days.
Health officials have warned that hazardous air quality conditions can be acutely harmful for people with respiratory issues and other preexisting conditions. People are urged to stay indoors and wear a well-fitting mask, such as an N95 respirator, while outside. Indoor air purifiers also can help reduce the harmful effects of wildfire smoke.
Amidst an ongoing climate crisis, many climate scientists warn that wildfires could become more frequent and intense.
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