The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delayed hundreds of flights on Wednesday from New York City and Philadelphia area airports due to reduced visibility from severe smoke originating from wildfires in Canada, APA reports citing Sputnik.
“The FAA is now slowing traffic from the East Coast and Midwest bound for Philadelphia International Airport due to reduced visibility from wildfire smoke,” the FAA said in a statement.
The agency also briefly halted flights headed to LaGuardia on Wednesday. More than 2,000 flights were delayed in the US on Wednesday, though not all of them were the result of the wildfires.
As of 3:00 pm EST, 180 flights had been delayed coming out of New York’s LaGuardia while 115 flights were delayed in New Jersey’s Newark airport. New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport did not suffer any significant delays.
Spokespersons for major airlines told US media they are aware of and are monitoring the situation. A Delta Airlines spokesperson said they are keeping workers on the tarmac for as short of time as possible.
“We’re having them come inside to where break rooms are in between aircraft turns,” the spokesperson said. “We are also watching the forecasts which call for rain in NYC in the days ahead which should improve the air quality.”
The smoke has choked NYC and to a lesser extent other parts of the northeast and mid-Atlantic areas of the United States.
Pictures on social media and published by traditional media outlets have shown a dystopian view of New York City, with a thick orange haze that severely limits visibility. Visibility and air quality have also been affected in other major cities, including Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
According to IQAir, Philadelphia’s AQI (Air Quality Index) is currently 247, 39.4 times the World Health Organization’s air quality guideline value. That is enough to give the air in the city an “extremely unhealthy” rating.
Washington DC is faring slightly better, with an AQI of 159, which is rated as “unhealthy” for the general population. But it is New York City where the air is worse than it has been since at least the 1980s.
The AQI in the Big Apple is 332, 56.3 times the WHO standard and rated as “hazardous” for the population. New York City officials have advised that all residents stay inside and avoid travel until the smoke passes.
Rain and changing winds are expected to reduce the problem somewhat. New York, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia are all expected to have their air quality return to “moderate” on Thursday, which is only considered harmful for sensitive groups.