NATIONAL NEWS

Unhealthy air quality lingers across parts of U.S. from drifting Canadian wildfire smoke

Jul 17, 2023, 11:24 AM | Updated: 11:58 am

CHICAGO (AP) — For Chicagoans planning a lengthy outdoor run Monday, “today is not necessarily the day for that,” according to Kim Biggs of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Extensive swaths of the northern United States awoke to Smoke and Fire map.

Fine particle pollution caused by smoke from Canada’s wildfires is causing a unhealthy for everyone. The particles, known as PM2.5, are tiny enough to get deep into the lungs and cause short-term problems like coughing and itchy eyes, and in the long run, can affect the lungs and heart.

The EPA advises keeping outdoor activities light and short when air quality indexes reach above 150 on the agency’s map. On Monday afternoon, cities and regions hitting that mark included Lincoln, Nebraska; Peoria, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio; Huntsville, Alabama; Knoxville and Chattanooga in Tennessee; Greensboro, North Carolina; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Syracuse and Utica in New York.

Sensitive groups, including people with heart and lung disease, older adults, children and pregnant women, should consider staying inside, advisories warn.

Although air quality was poor in the Chicago region earlier Monday, it has already improved to moderate quality and was expected to continue doing so throughout the day, Biggs said.

Relief from the smoke crossing the Canadian-U.S. border won’t be immediate, experts said. Large fires in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan are likely to keep churning out smoke throughout the summer and possibly into early fall, said Montana Department of Environmental Quality meteorologist Aaron Ofseyer.

“The worst is over with this round,” Ofseyer said. “Unfortunately there’s still a ton of wildfire smoke north of the border. Anytime we get a North wind we’re going to be dealing with Canadian wildfire smoke.”

Climate change and rising temperatures cause the environment to be more prone to wildfires, and more susceptible for air masses to become stagnant and stationary, explained Dr. Ravi Kalhan, a pulmonologist and professor of medicine and preventative medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“It’s not normal,” he said of the repeated air quality alerts experienced by the Midwest this summer.

“We keep having these events. They’re not just one bad day a year,” Kalhan said.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre website reported 882 active fires, with 581 deemed “out of control,” as of Monday afternoon.

___

Anthony Izaguirre and Matthew Brown contributed to this report from Albany, New York, and Billings, Montana. Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

National News

Associated Press

Malfunctioning steam room sets off alarm, prompts evacuation at Rhode Island YMCA

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (AP) — A malfunctioning steam room at a YMCA in Rhode Island pumped out so much steam that it triggered an a sprinkler system alarm on Saturday morning, prompting an evacuation. In a statement, the Middletown Police Department said officials rushed to the Newport County YMCA in Middletown around 9 a.m. for a […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Think cicadas are weird? Check out superfans, who eat the bugs, use them in art and even striptease

FOREST PARK, Illinois (AP) — Mayumi Barrack sees a pair of mating periodical cicadas getting together, whips out her phone, says, “Hi guys!” and takes their picture. “I’m not really a bug person, but as I look more and more I feel they are adorable,” Barrack explained, noting that many other creatures — birds, squirrels, […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Police in Maine cancel shelter-in-place order after explosions and fire are reported

AUBURN, Maine (AP) — Police in Maine have canceled a shelter-in-place order in the city of Auburn after reporting that an armed person was in an area where a series of explosions and a house fire erupted early Saturday. The Auburn Police Department said on Facebook that the situation had been resolved and that there […]

9 hours ago

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

18 hours ago

Associated Press

Couple rescued from desert near California’s Joshua Tree National Park after running out of water

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A couple hiking in the desert south of Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California was rescued after running out of water, authorities said. On Sunday, the man called 911 and reported that his girlfriend was dehydrated and weak, according to a statement from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office posted Monday […]

19 hours ago

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people Friday after they were stuck for about half an hour dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park. Portland Fire and Rescue said on the social platform X that firefighters worked with engineers at Oaks Park to manually lower the […]

19 hours ago

Unhealthy air quality lingers across parts of U.S. from drifting Canadian wildfire smoke