What’s that smoke smell? From Canadian wildfires and it’s prompted air quality concerns across region Tuesday

The Tuesday afternoon sun

The Tuesday afternoon sun

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CAPITAL DISTRICT — The Capital District and Mohawk Valley were among regions across most of New York placed under air quality health advisories for two straight days issued by the state Health and Environmental Conservation departments.

Hazy skies blanketing the area have been caused by winds carrying smoke into the eastern U.S. from wildfires burning in eastern Canada, according to Neil Stuart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

“The smoke and the particles in the smoke, that’s what is affecting the air quality, which is why sensitive groups have to be careful,” Stuart said. “We can actually see the effects of that outside at this time where the sky is a very milky white color and the sun is blocked to some degree.”

Health advisories issued for Monday through at least 11:59 p.m. Tuesday covered nearly the entire state, except for western New York. However, an advisory for Wednesday includes the western regions of the state, along with Long Island, New York City metro and central New York. Levels of fine particulate matter in affected regions were expected to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” according to a release from the DEC.

“Exposure can cause short-term health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Exposure to elevated levels of fine particulate matter can also worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease,” the release states.

Air quality in some areas of the state worsened to levels considered unhealthy for all individuals, including at the closest local monitoring points in Albany and Utica as of Tuesday afternoon, according to DEC tracking tools.

At those air quality levels, anyone may begin to experience health effects, with members of sensitive groups potentially experiencing more serious impacts. Avoiding strenuous activities outdoors and moving indoors may reduce exposure in areas where fine particle concentrations are high.

Meteorologists with the DEC were reportedly monitoring conditions during the day on Tuesday to determine whether to extend the air quality health advisory beyond midnight.

“We have to be very careful how we track these different features in the atmosphere that are steering the winds. There could be some very subtle changes in things that could make a big difference in where the smoke is pushed,” the National Weather Service’s Stuart said.

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

By Ashley Onyon

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