Air Quality

Code red: Poor air quality alerts in effect for Philly region due to Canadian wildfires

You can smell wildfire smoke in the air in the Philadelphia region Wednesday

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What to Know

  • The NBC10 First Alert Weather Team has issued a First Alert for unhealthy air conditions Thursday that are being caused by wildfire smoke from Canada.
  • Hazardous air conditions hovered over Philadelphia Thursday morning.
  • The Philadelphia Health Department said its "recommending" that groups and event planners "consider postponing them for everyone’s safety."

Editor's Note: (June 8, 2023, 6:54 a.m.): This story is no longer being updated. To get the latest info on air quality Thursday, click here.

A code red air quality alert is in effect for the entire Philadelphia area through Thursday due to smoke from Canadian wildfires causing hazy and smoky conditions throughout the region.

The Philadelphia Health Department said the particles in the air are "unhealthy."

The NBC10 First Alert Weather Team has issued a First Alert through Thursday night due to the poor air conditions.

Here's what you need to know to keep you and your family safe:

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Air quality alert 😷

A haze could be seen as the sun set Tuesday evening over the Philadelphia region. It continued through Wednesday and into Thursday. It was in the hazardous range by Thursday morning.

The hazy wildfire smoke over Philadelphia and the surrounding communities is coming from wildfires burning in Quebec, Canada, and leading to decreased air quality in the form of a code red alert for sensitive groups as thicker smoke spreads southward.

The code red air quality alert will remain in effect for the Philadelphia region through Thursday. NBC10 First Alert Weather meteorologist Brittney Shipp has the details.

Dense smoke could be seen Wednesday afternoon over Camelback Mountain in the Poconos.

What do code orange and red alerts mean?

"A code orange air quality alert means that air pollution concentrations within the region may become unhealthy for sensitive groups, according to the National Weather Service. "Sensitive groups include children...people suffering from asthma... heart disease or other lung diseases...and the elderly. The effects of air pollution can be minimized by avoiding strenuous activity or exercise outdoors."

By late Wednesday morning, the air quality alert was increased to a code red throughout the Philadelphia region:

"A code red air quality alert means that air pollution concentrations within the region are unhealthful for the general population," the National Weather Service said. "The effects of air pollution can be minimized by avoiding strenuous activity or exercise outdoors."

Philadelphia also upped its alert to code red Wednesday morning.

"The Health Department is in contact with organizations that are planning outdoor activities today and recommending that they consider postponing them for everyone’s safety," the health department said.

The wildfire haze continued throughout overnight hours, with residents in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburban counties reporting smoky conditions Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Luckily, temps on Thursday aren't expected to push out of the 70s in most of the region, making staying indoors more bearable.

An air quality alert remains in effect for the entire region due to hazy smoke from Canadian wildfires. NBC10's Cydney Long shares tips from doctors on protecting yourself amid the unsafe air.

Safety recommendations

The air quality alert will remain in effect for the entire region through Wednesday and into Thursday in New Jersey and Delaware.

Philadelphia explained what the code red alert means: "This alert means that the air is unhealthy to breathe, and some members of the general public may experience health effects. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects. Air quality may vary throughout the city and throughout the day, with some areas having significantly worse quality depending on the prevailing winds."

In a tweet thread, the Philadelphia Department of Health provided the following recommendations for residents during the alert:

  • Strongly consider cancelling outdoor events and gatherings.
  • Avoid going outdoors as much as possible.
  • Avoid excessive activities outdoors, such as jogging or exercising.
  • If you have to go outdoors, wear a high quality mask, like an N-95 or KN-95.
  • Avoid areas of high congestion and where air pollution may be high, like main streets or highways, areas with low air circulation.
  • Close all windows and doors to minimize air pollution in your home.
  • Recirculate the air in your home with fans to avoid bringing more air pollution into your home.
  • Pay attention to their bodies; if they are having trouble breathing, feeling nauseous, or dizzy, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

While the air may be hazardous for all residents it's especially dangerous for sensitive groups, including children, elderly people, pregnant people and those with respiratory diseases or heart conditions.

The Health Department gave the following recommendations for residents to help reduce pollution in the city.

  • Avoid unnecessary trips in their cars 
  • Avoid idling
  • Carpool when possible
  • Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment

Relief isn't expected until later on Thursday, at the earliest.

Tips to protect pets

Pets are also vulnerable during the code red. The American Veterinary Medical Association shared the following tips for owners to keep pets safe:

  • Keep pets indoors and keep windows closed
  • Birds should not be allowed outside
  • Let dogs and cats outside only for brief bathroom breaks
  • Avoid intense outdoor exercise during periods of poor air quality

Poor air conditions lead to school changes, event postponements

The School District of Philadelphia called for recess and all outside activities to be "moved indoors if possible or canceled." In the Camden City School District in New Jersey, all outdoor field trips were postponed and recess and gym classes were being held inside.

Expect other school districts to follow suit with similar measures.

The Point Breeze Night Market scheduled for Wednesday was postponed "after consultation with Philadelphia Health department officials," according to a news release from Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson's office. New new date was announced.

Councilmember Johnson’s Oldies in the Park event scheduled for Wednesday in Stinger Square Park was canceled, his office said. The event will resume next Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m.

The Food Trust closed its 52nd & Haverford Farmers Market in West Philly Wednesday over poor air quality.

The smoke is also impacting travel. Philadelphia International Airport announced around 3:30 p.m. that arriving flights are experiencing delays due to low visibility.

An airport spokesperson told NBC10 early Wednesday evening the average delay time for inbound flights is 29 minutes while there is no impact on departing flights. The spokesperson recommended that passengers check with their airlines for the latest flight information.

Finally, the Phillies rescheduled Wednesday's game against the Detroit Tigers to Thursday due to the poor air quality.

Wildfire risk in New Jersey, Pennsylvania 🚩

The lack of significant rainfall recently plus gusty, dry winds Tuesday afternoon led to a red flag warning that came with tips to avoid potentially sparking a blaze.

"Much of our area has not received a widespread wetting rainfall in over 5 weeks," the National Weather Service said. "Use extreme caution when handling any ignition sources (Tuesday)."

Smokers should not flick cigarettes onto the ground, people shouldn't use open flames and cars should be kept off dry grass.

"Any fires that develop may quickly get out of control and become difficult to contain," the weather service warned.

A wildfire began Tuesday afternoon in Jackson Township, New Jersey and continued overnight into Wednesday morning before firefighters contained it in the afternoon. The red flag warning, however, expired.

As always, keep ahead of any weather threat by getting alerts on the NBC10 app (download it now), on and on NBC10 News.

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