A jaw-dropping video showed how quickly visibility deteriorated in New York City on Wednesday as smoke from hundreds of active wildfires in Canada eerily enveloped the Big Apple.
The clip, posted by the National Weather Service on Twitter, shows a fairly clear NYC skyline around 11 a.m., but as the smoke thickens, the skyscrapers increasingly fade into the orange haze and are almost impossible to see by 2 p.m.
The NWS called the Martian-like footage of the city “almost unbelievable” in the tweet.
“Those vulnerable to poor air quality, including seniors and young children, should limit time outdoors if possible,” the agency warned.
On Wednesday afternoon, air pollution was so poor that it nearly topped the entire air quality scale at 484 — resulting in the worst air quality in the city since the 1960s, Mayor Eric Adams told reporters at an evening press briefing.
On a normal day in New York, the air index is about 100.
The air quality index was even worse than after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to Fox Forecast Center meteorologist Brian Mastro. However, the air from the Canadian wildfires is not nearly as toxic as the debris cloud that shrouded the city after the World Trade Center towers collapsed in lower Manhattan.
The haze was so thick that around 2 p.m. multiple photo-sensitive streetlights in Central Park turned on.
Conditions were expected to improve after 9 p.m. Wednesday and continue to clear up throughout the night before air quality worsens again throughout Thursday afternoon, Adams said.
Adams and Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Zachary Iscol emphasized the difficulty in forecasting air quality.
“I know times like these can be scary, it can be shocking for many New Yorkers when you step outside, when you smell and breathe this air,” Iscol said at the briefing.
Gov. Hochul is shipping 400,000 masks to NYC. Adams said the city has masks in its reserves from the pandemic and said a distribution program is set to get underway.
NYC public school students were already scheduled to be off Thursday, and teachers scheduled for training will do so remotely, Schools Chancellor David Banks said. The city will decide Thursday if schools will be closed Friday.
“This is extremely dangerous air outside,” NYC Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said.
So far, he said, there has not been an influx of ER visits due to the conditions.