NYC air quality improves as wildfire smoke clears

Air quality across New York is forecast to continue improving, a far cry from the dark skies and acrid air earlier this week. Indeed, for many New Yorkers, it was an unsettling flashback to some of the city’s darkest days.

Air quality concerns entered day three, with people donning their surgical masks and N-95’s from one street corner to the next.

The Tri-State endured its worst-ever air day on Wednesday when the air-quality index hit historic highs. 

While the index number was much lower Thursday, it still wasn't healthy.

Smoke filled NYC

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In the middle of the afternoon, smoke from Canadian forest fires blankets the skyline of New York City, June 7, 2023, as seen from Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

An ominous yellow haze hung over skyscrapers as the air quality index climbed to 484, out of 500, temporarily earning New York an unwelcome distinction: The most polluted city in the world.

"Right now, the health guidance hasn't changed. Stay indoors," Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner warned.

Those who couldn’t stay indoors were able to secure free masks, courtesy of the state, at Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal and other areas throughout the five boroughs.

What now?

The FDNY also handed out face coverings at seven locations across Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Travel issues plagued all three major airports, with delays at Newark and LaGuardia averaging between thirty minutes and an hour. There were no FAA-issued ground stops.

Other activities resumed as normal, like the single-admission doubleheader between the Yankees and White Sox, which had to be rescheduled from the day before.

Are things back to normal?

Most New York City public school students were already scheduled to have off today. Those who were scheduled to come into the building will learn remotely.

However, Canadian wildfires continue to rage on hundreds of miles away.

To that end, city and state officials are still urging caution even though the worst appears to be over.

"We might get a little respite but I don't want people to let down their guard and to become complacent about this," Governor Hochul said.