Story at a glance
- States along the East Coast are seeing smoky skies from the Western wildfires.
- Closer to the fires, the smoke has potential to exacerbate COVID-19 infections.
California and the Pacific Northwest are not the only states seeing hazy skies. As massive, destructive wildfires continue to scorch parts of the West Coast, the intense smoke pumping into the atmosphere is drifting across the country, appearing as far as the East Coast and mid-Atlantic states.
USAToday reports that smoke from the fires is traveling along the northern part of the country and is causing smoky skies. Most of the southern states will see less smoke due to air coming from the Gulf of Mexico.
Notice that hazy, milky sky this morning? That is a result of smoke (well above our heads) from wildfires across the Western US. Notice that the smoke originates across the west and then gets pulled to the east due to the jet stream aloft. The haziness may increase later today. pic.twitter.com/wBOQHfpcmM— NWS Wakefield (@NWSWakefieldVA) September 15, 2020
“Amazingly, that wildfire smoke has traveled thousands of miles and finally has reached the East,” AccuWeather meteorologist Matt Benz told reporters. “It looks like clouds, but it is smoke. And we are stuck with this until the weather pattern changes.”'
MORE FROM CHANGING AMERICA
A cold front is set to come through the eastern states, but Benz says it is unlikely that it will clear the opaque air.
Fortunately, the smoke is both elevated in the atmosphere and less dense than along the West Coast, meaning that residents on the Eastern Shore aren’t in danger of breathing in hazardous air. Meanwhile, air quality along California and in Oregon remains dangerous for residents to breathe in, prompting government agencies to advise residents to stay indoors.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) recently compared breathing the local air to smoking 20 packs of cigarettes.
Poor air quality has been found to exacerbate severe COVID-19 infections and even lead to an increase in COVID-19 death rates. Some 10 percent of recent emergency room visits are for asthma-like symptoms in Oregon, according to Gabriela Goldfarb, a section manager of Environmental Public Health at the Oregon Health Authority.
“Even at this distance it can aggravate anyone who has underlying pulmonary conditions, asthma, those kinds of conditions,” Tuscon, Ariz., physician Matthew Heinz said. “Closer to the fires, anyone can suffer.”