Air Quality Index levels forecast to reach 'unhealthy' upstate
√ Emergency cell phone alerts will warn New Yorkers when AQI exceeds 200 threshold for 'very unhealthy' air
√ Hundreds of thousands of N95-style masks available to public statewide
√ Hospitals should remain on alert for influx of emergency department visits from patients experiencing respiratory issues
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday announced air quality health advisories were issued for Monday, July 17, for the entire state, as smoke from wildfires in Western Canada continues to negatively affect air quality across the region. The smoke is expected to cause the Air Quality Index to reach levels in upstate communities that are “unhealthy for all” New Yorkers. The forecast for the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island is expected to reach “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”
"New Yorkers should once again prepare for smoke from the wildfires in Western Canada to impact our state's air quality this week," Hochul said. "To help everyone stay informed and safe, we are activating emergency notifications on our roads and public transit systems and making masks available to counties for distribution. As forecasts continue to evolve, I encourage New Yorkers to stay up to date on the latest information and take the necessary precautions to protect yourselves and your loved ones."
Behind Sunday’s storm system, winds were expected to turn from the south to the southwest and west, “potentially ushering an expansive plume of Western Canada wildfire smoke into New York state overnight Sunday and into Monday,” a press release noted. “Forecast models currently predict elevated levels of smoke-enhanced fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) will spread across upstate New York. The chemical compounds found in wildfire smoke are also expected to enhance ozone production downstate. Forecasts for Tuesday show smoke slowly clearing out of the state. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is closely watching forecast models and data to determine if smoke or ozone will rise to levels that would trigger issuing air quality health advisories on Tuesday.”
DEC and the State Department of Health (DOH) issued air quality health advisories for “fine particulate levels that are unhealthy for any New Yorker due to smoke” for the Western New York, Eastern Lake Ontario, Central New York, Adirondacks and Upper Hudson Valley regions. Air quality health advisories are also being issued for the Lower Hudson Valley and New York City Metro regions, “where smoke is forecast to reach levels that are ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups,’ as smoke moves in later in the day. In addition, an air quality health advisory for ozone that is ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ is forecasted for the Long Island and New York City metro regions.”
Hochul’s team said, “Emergency cell phone alerts will be used to warn New Yorkers if air quality index exceeds the 200 threshold for 'very unhealthy' air and sustained for longer than an hour. The alerts will be transmitted via the wireless emergency alert system, managed by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
“At the governor's direction, hundreds of thousands of high-quality N95-style masks have been made available to New Yorkers to address air quality impacts, and will continue to be made available to counties at state-run stockpiles for further distribution to the public.”
Transit authorities across the state are utilizing public address systems, bus headway signs, social media, and other electronic signage to provide air-quality related safety information directly to customers.
The governor encouraged New Yorkers plan for potential changes to outdoor activity on Monday, until conditions improve. Her team said, “Summer camp directors should know their local AQI forecast and alert level and follow DOH and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency AQI guidance, available here. DEC and DOH experts continue to monitor air quality, watching smoke and weather patterns closely.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "With unhealthy air quality affecting most of the state, DEC encourages all New Yorkers to make informed decisions and follow guidance that can prevent health issues related to poor air quality due to smoke and elevated ozone levels. DEC experts and our partners across the state will continue to closely monitor forecasts for air quality and keep the public informed."
DOH Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, "New Yorkers who are especially sensitive to elevated levels of air pollutants, including children under 18, adults 65 and older, pregnant people and those with preexisting conditions such as heart disease or asthma, should avoid spending time outdoors, if possible, in areas where the AQI is over 100. If you must go outdoors in areas that have air that is unhealthy or worse, consider wearing an N95 mask. Those who experience symptoms, or have symptoms that worsen, should consider consulting their health care provider."
DEC and DOH issue air quality health advisories when ozone or fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. To subscribe for advisories delivered by email, click here.
The DOH is advising precautions as necessary. Steps for individuals to take to reduce risk, include:
√ When AQI is greater than 100 (“unhealthy for sensitive groups”), New Yorkers in vulnerable groups should avoid exertion outdoors and watch for symptoms when exposed to the outdoors. Vulnerable individuals include those with cardiovascular disease (e.g., congestive heart failure, history of prior heart attack) or lung disease (e.g., asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), as well as children under 18, adults 65 and older, and pregnant people.
√ When AQI is greater than 150 (“unhealthy”), all New Yorkers should avoid strenuous outdoor activities, and those in vulnerable groups should avoid exposure to the outdoors, especially pregnant individuals who may become short of breath more easily. In addition, some employees who are vulnerable should work indoors, and camp directors should know their local AQI forecast and alert level and follow AQI guidance.
√ When AQI is greater than 200 (“very unhealthy”), vulnerable groups should avoid all physical activity outdoors, and reschedule or move activities indoors. All others should avoid long or intense outdoor activities.
√ When AQI is greater than 300 (“hazardous”), all New Yorkers should avoid outdoor physical activities.
The press release concluded, “For people who spend time outdoors, when air quality is unhealthy, wearing a well-fitting face mask is recommended. A N95 or KN95 will work best. More information about New York state air quality forecast is available here. To check your location's current air quality, go to www.airnow.gov.”