When will the smoke clear? Expect some relief starting Thursday, says meteorologist
As the haze and smell of smoke from raging wildfires in Canada lingers, many residents are asking: When will it clear?
Experts say it could get worse before it gets better, but meteorologist Josh Nichols said Thursday that conditions are slowly improving.
"The sky will still appear hazy here in Rochester (Thursday), but the smoke will not be nearly as noticeable, thanks to the fact that the next smoke plume will be targeting areas well west of us," (from Buffalo to points west, said Nichols).
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on Wednesday classified the Rochester region's air quality as "unhealthy." An 'air quality health advisory' remains in effect for most regions of the state on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the smoky conditions led to several closures or cancellations.
Monroe County closed the Seneca Park Zoo and all county parks, including golf courses. The county also said employees who typically work outdoors are performing indoor tasks.
Dr. Michael Mendoza, Monroe County’s health commissioner, recommended that everyone remain indoors, with windows and doors closed, as much as possible.
“The wildfire smoke is creating a public health hazard in Monroe County, and conditions may deteriorate before they improve,” he said in a statement. “If you go outside for a brief period, I encourage you to wear a high-quality mask and avoid physical activity. These recommendations remain in effect until further notice.”
Mendoza said they determine the smoke’s potential health risk through the Air Quality Index, an index that reports information about air pollutants, including particles from wildfire smoke. It can be accessed at airnow.gov.
He said people who are most at risk are those with chronic lung or heart conditions, older adults, children and teenagers, pregnant women and outdoor workers.
"However, when the AQI reaches 200 or above (Purple/Brown), all of us are at elevated risk,” he said, adding that anyone with specific concerns should contact their primary care provider.
At the current level of air quality, some members of our community are at greater risk - please consider additional precautions like staying indoors, wearing a mask, and ensuring you are taking any medications as prescribed (including as-needed rescue inhalers like albuterol). pic.twitter.com/RGrC5KK9cA— Dr. Mike Mendoza (@DrMikeMendoza) June 7, 2023
At the House of Mercy, Executive Director Tammy Butler said the shelter is working to encourage its residents to stay inside by offering more activities. Workers with the shelter are also distributing N95 masks to the homeless population to help mitigate the effects of the smoke.
The shelter has a capacity of 60 residents, and currently is housing 55 people.
“Especially those who have respiratory conditions or are feeling ill, we just encourage them to stay safe, and if they do go out into the community, encourage those who don't have a place to go, bring them here,” Butler said.
Dr. Keith Grams, chair of emergency medicine for Rochester Regional Health, said Wednesday that the emergency room has not seen a significant influx of patients coming in to be treated for related issues.
He said for the most part, people are exercising precautions and staying healthy.
“We've seen a couple of folks come in with a little bit more problems with their lungs, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not nearly as many as we kind of expected,” Grams said.
If you're a fairly healthy person with no underlying lung or heart conditions, Grams said you may experience some throat irritation or shortness of breath doing basic activities. But for the most part, he said "healthy folks aren't going to have an issue."