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Smoke from West Coast wildfires turns East Coast skies hazy

Southbound I-80 slows to a crawl as the fire jumps the freeway during the Lightning Complex fire on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 in Vacaville, California. (Paul Kuroda/SIPA USA/TNS)
September 15, 2020

Smoke from multiple wildfires burning across the West Coast reached the East Coast, turning skies everywhere from New York City to Washington, D.C., hazy.

“The smoke is swirling clockwise around the high pressure over the Great Basin and then getting caught up in westerly flow east of the Rockies,” explained National Weather Service meteorologist Julie Malingowski. “Then it’s making its way across the plains to the East Coast. It looks like the smoke, depending on what’s happening with the winds, could be reaching anywhere from the Carolinas to the Northeaster part of the county. It’s hard to tell exactly.”

In California, nearly 17,000 firefighters are battling 29 major wildfires. Since mid-August the blazes have destroyed 4,100 buildings and killed 24 people in the state. Fires have engulfed 3.3 million acres of land in California this year — desolation greater in size than Connecticut.

Authorities in Oregon say more than 20 people remain missing from the wildfires burning across the state. Gov. Kate Brown said Monday that 10 people are confirmed dead and that the number would likely rise as more confirmations come in from local law enforcement and medical authorities.

Fires are also burning in Washington state and Idaho.

As long as the fires continue to burn, smoke will impact air quality levels across the country.

“The notable haze in the sky this afternoon will only get thicker through Tuesday morning,” New York Metro Weather, which provides community-supported forecasts, shared on Twitter Monday.

Metro Weather added that the influx of smoke will have little effect on air quality at ground level as “the majority of smoke will move overhead at around 20,000 feet.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Satellite and Product Operations uses satellite imagery to track the path of the smoke. The latest map from Monday evening shows the smoke from the West Coast traveling in two massive plumes, one heading into Canada and the other to the Northeast United States.


© 2020 SFGate