Lingering Canadian Wildfires Continue to Affect US Residents in the Great Lakes Region

by Sophia Chen

Unhealthy Air Quality Alerts Persist as Canadian Wildfires Rage On

The presence of hazy and unhealthy air over cities in the Great Lakes region, including Chicago, served as a reminder to residents in the United States that Canadian wildfires are still ongoing. The direction of the wind will determine whether more haze will affect areas from the Midwest to the Northeast and as far south as Kentucky.

Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, emphasized the ongoing risk as long as the fires continue to burn. “If there’s any north component to the wind, there’s a chance it’ll be smoky,” he warned.

The smoke from the relentless Canadian wildfires has created a curtain of haze, causing concerns about air quality across the Great Lakes region and parts of the central and eastern United States. The AirNow.gov site, operated by the Environmental Protection Agency, indicated that areas in Illinois, lower Michigan, and southern Wisconsin experienced the worst air quality in the country. Cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee were categorized as having “very unhealthy” air quality.

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According to officials, rainfall is unlikely to be sufficient to extinguish the Quebec wildfires that are causing the smoky conditions in the United States. The impact of Canadian wildfires on cities like Chicago and Detroit has resulted in the worst air quality in the country. Minnesota issued its record-breaking 23rd air quality alert due to the smoke from Canadian wildfires, obscuring the skylines of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Air quality alerts were also issued for the entire state of Michigan and the state of Wisconsin.

In response to the poor air quality, officials in Chicago urged vulnerable individuals, such as young people, older adults, and those with health issues, to spend more time indoors. Some day care centers in the area decided to keep children indoors, and a youth sports club adjusted its activities to include more indoor time.

The smoke is attributed to the fires in northern Quebec and low pressure over the eastern Great Lakes, as explained by meteorologist Bryan Jackson. He noted that a north wind would push the smoke further south, affecting areas in southern Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky overnight.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre reported that since January 1, approximately 76,129 square kilometers (29,393 square miles) of land, including forests, have been consumed by fires in Canada. This surpasses the previous record set in 1989 of 75,596 square kilometers (29,187 square miles) of burned land.

Despite recent rainfall in Quebec, it is unlikely to be sufficient to put out the wildfires. However, the wet weather may provide an opportunity for firefighters to gain some control over the flames.

The impact of the Canadian wildfires has been felt in the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region, with smoke causing the air to turn yellowish gray and prompting warnings to stay indoors and keep windows closed.

The particles present in wildfire smoke can irritate the respiratory system, including the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, making breathing more difficult. Health officials advise limiting outdoor activities as much as possible to avoid inhaling these particles.

U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged the impact of climate change and the connection to the wildfires, highlighting the presence of American firefighters and support personnel in Canada since May.

Joel Thornton, a professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, emphasized that the warming planet will result in more intense and prolonged heat waves, leading to larger and smokier fires.

Residents in affected areas, like Priti Marwah, who was about to go for a run in Chicago, expressed their concerns about the poor air quality, describing the haze as “bad” and expressing worries about the potential health risks.

The smoke from the wildfires reached Minnesota on Monday night, and ground-level smoke is expected to linger in parts of the state. Minnesota has experienced a record-breaking 23 air quality alerts this year, surpassing the previous record of 21 alerts in 2021. However, a cold front is expected to bring cleaner air from the west, improving the air quality in the region by early Thursday.

While the anticipated relief brought hope for some, residents like Dan Daley from St. Louis Park, Minnesota, continue to find it difficult to spend time outdoors due to the persistent smoke.

Reporting by Ahmed in Minneapolis. Contributions to the story from AP reporters Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Corey Williams in Detroit, and Ken Kusmer in Indianapolis.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wildfires

Q: What is causing the haze and unhealthy air quality in the Great Lakes region?

A: The haze and unhealthy air quality in the Great Lakes region are caused by ongoing Canadian wildfires. The smoke from these wildfires is drifting into the region, creating a curtain of haze and raising concerns about air quality.

More about wildfires

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OutdoorExplorer June 28, 2023 - 6:51 am

haze from da wildfires be ruinin’ my outdoor activities. ain’t nothin’ worse than breathin’ in dat smoky air. stay safe, folks!

NatureLover123 June 28, 2023 - 4:07 pm

it’s so sad to see how wildfires in Canada are affectin’ da air quality in da Great Lakes region. we gotta take climate change seriously and protect our environment.

RunningMomma June 29, 2023 - 12:59 am

as a runner, dis haze is makin’ it tough for me to get my miles in. i can feel da smoky air in my lungs. hopin’ for some clean air soon!

WeatherGeek23 June 29, 2023 - 3:12 am

those Canadian wildfires ain’t no joke. da wind direction plays a big role in where da smoke goes. stay updated on air quality alerts and take precautions, peeps!


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