Smoky haze from western fires blankets Northeast PA

Jul. 20—Where there's smoke there's fire.

That's true even when the flames are 3,000 miles away.

Smoke drifting east from a series of ferocious wildfires raging in the western United States and Canada spread a pall of soupy haze over Northeast Pennsylvania on Tuesday, reducing visibility and degrading air quality.

Although it's not uncommon for smoke from western fires to make it this far east, it's rare to see so much of it, AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines said.

"I will say as thick as this smoke is, that is unusual," Kines said. "It has really lowered the visibility across chunks of the Northeast. It looks very smoggy out there."

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the federal government's AirNow website had downgraded the air quality in the Scranton area to "unhealthy."

It recommended that people keep outdoor activities light and short and monitor how they feel. Sensitive groups, including individuals with heart or lung disease, older adults, children and pregnant women, should consider moving activities indoors, the website said.

Portions of southeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania were already under a similar advisory issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The advisory will be in effect today in southcentral and southeastern Pennsylvania, along with the Lehigh Valley-Berks area, DEP said.

The good thing, Kines said, is that even though there is a lot of smoke, most of it is higher in the atmosphere and not at ground level.

"For most people, health-wise, it's not a big deal," he said. "There will be a few who will be affected by it, but most won't."

The smoky conditions also won't stick around much longer, Kines said.

A front moving through the region by late morning or early afternoon today, possibly accompanied by a thunderstorm, is expected to bring clearer, crisper air with blue skies into Thursday, he said. Lows tonight should be in the 50s across the area.

"Not only will we see visibility improve, we are going to see lower humidity as a side note, which is a welcome change," Kines said. "It's been a while since we have had a nice, comfortable air mass come in here."

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