Forest fires ship smoke to the east coast

Residents and travelers in the eastern United States, including Somerset County, may have noticed hazy, smoke-filled skies this week.

Smoke filled the air and even colored the sky orange in places as a result of various forest fires in northern Canada and the northwestern United States.

AccuWeather meteorologist Max Gawryla said the smoke caused poor visibility and haze in most of Pennsylvania and the major cities along the east coast.

He added that the wind will turn later in the week and that most of the haze should clear before Saturday.

“Things should improve by the end of the week,” he said.

Should you be concerned?

Smoke and air pollution can cause breathing problems or a sore throat in some people.

Air quality alerts have been issued in major cities in the northeast, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington, DC

Gawryla said the Air Quality Index (AQI) hit around 75 in the past week, which is above the average of below 50.

He said an AQI between 0 and 50 is normal for western Pennsylvania. An AQI between 50 and 100 is manageable and most will have no health effects.

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Over 100 is when officials recommend not exercising outside for long periods of time. Between 150 and 200 is an unhealthy range for everyone.

“It can be felt by everyone, regardless of their state of health,” said Gawryla.

Somerset measured an AQI of 17 and Pittsburgh about 35 AQI on Thursday morning, according to PlumeLabs.com. Areas near the forest fires in Manitoba, Canada and east of Vancouver measured between 100 and 200 AQI.

Parts of North Africa and Saudi Arabia hit over 200 on Thursday.

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