West Coast Fire Haze Clouds NYC Skies

Smog from wildfires 2,700 miles away clouds New York’s skyline. (taken 9/16/20) Photo by Kari Jensen

Smog from wildfires 2,700 miles away clouds New York’s skyline. (taken 9/16/20) Photo by Kari Jensen

This story is reported by contributor Kari Jensen.

New York City’s skies dulled to shades of yellows, greens and grays recently, clouded by smoke blown in from West Coast wildfires. 

Gothamist documented the smoky haze that reached the city earlier this week, noting, “Advancing plumes of smoke from the record fires ripping through much of the West Coast have now arrived in New York City — blanketing the sky with a milky haze that’s expected to last for several days. The swath of smoke swept eastward this week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, first becoming noticeable in New York on Monday.”

But while New York’s air quality was expected to remain good, wildfires continued in the Pacific Northwest and California, affecting this reporter’s family in Oregon and countless other people in that region. On the West Coast, the unprecedented wildfires have wreaked havoc, decimated communities and forced thousands to flee their homes.

As the fires raged, the skies turned orange and yellow-green as air quality deteriorated to hazardous levels. Residents were advised to wear masks and stay indoors. On Sept. 9, my mom, Karen Jensen, texted me: “Just gathered our birth certificates and will [and testament] in carry bag if we need to evacuate!  We are getting prepared!” So far, my parents have not had to leave their home in Salem, Oregon’s capital.

But in a more recent text, Mom said: “Smokey here. Hurts to walk outside. Ash everywhere.” People on the West Coast “have been struggling for a week or longer under some of the most unhealthy air on the planet,” according to the Associated Press. “The acrid yellow-green smog may linger for days or weeks, scientists and forecasters said.” On Sept. 17, Mom texted me a photo that, at first glance, appeared to be the moon in a gray sky. She texted: “We can see the sun today. Rain is forecast tonight and tomorrow. That will be a Big Help!”