(Bloomberg) -- The skies in the eastern US are starting to become clearer, 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 good 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 US 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.
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Here’s the latest news: (All times are NY)
NYC Air Quality Good for First Time in Days (2:01 p.m.)
Air quality across most of New York City and the Tri-State area was good for the first time since smoke from Canadian wildfires road winds south earlier this week. Readings on AirNow.gov were below 100 in most places in the city’s five boroughs and improving in Philadelphia and Washington to the south.
Weather forecasts call for low pressure system to develop over the Great Lakes this weekend, which would push the smoke back into Canada and keep it bottled up for the time being.
Thick Plumes to Break Up (7:47 a.m.)
Conditions should gradually improve through the weekend as the stuck weather pattern responsible for pumping the thick plumes of smoke south into the US from fires in Quebec breaks up, according to Zack Taylor at the US Weather Prediction Center.
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.”
Rain to Bring US Relief by Sunday (3:55 a.m.)
A weather system forecast to bring rainfall to the Ohio and Tennessee valley regions on Sunday “will also allow for much of the lingering wildfire smoke in the eastern US to finally subside,” the National Weather Service said in a forecast.
Still, the smoke “is expected to continue plaguing regions from the Great Lakes to the Mid-Atlantic with reduced air quality” leading up to the weekend. Air Quality Alerts remain in effect. Expect some pockets of denser smoke and hazy orange sunsets and sunrises into the weekend.
NYC’s Air Quality Returns to Moderate (2:40 a.m.)
New York City’s current air quality level is “moderate” as of 2 a.m. Eastern time, according to data from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. That’s the first time since Monday that the city’s air quality has been at that level.
Drugstores Sell More Masks, Air Filters (5 p.m. Thursday)
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 Sees Asthma Treatment Jump in NYC (4:45 p.m.)
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.
Quebec Rain Not Expected Until Monday (4 p.m.)
The fire situation in Quebec is stable as winds have eased, but heavy rain is isn’t expected until Monday evening, Premier Francois Legault said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. The number of active forest fires in the province dropped to 132 from about 150, according to the website of a Quebec organization that tracks fire activity. Most are still blazing out of control in remote areas; about 13,500 people are under evacuation orders.
Biden: US Will ‘Respond Promptly’ to Aid Requests (2:45 p.m.)
President Joe Biden said Thursday the US 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.
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--With assistance from Jordan Fabian, Cailley LaPara, Matthew Griffin, Jeff Sutherland, Zachary Fleming, Christine Buurma, Simon Lee, Eric Roston, Ari Natter and Zahra Hirji.
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