July 21, 2021
If you've gone outside or looked out your window over the last 24 hours, you've probably been a bit confused to see an extremely hazy sky stretching across the Philly region. There's also a good chance you noticed a smoky smell too.
The hazy, smoky skies have made the sun look as red as in the Francis Ford Coppola film "Apocalypse Now" and the moon look blood orange.
The off-color skies across the region are the result of smoke that has swept across the U.S. from wildfires that have engulfed central and western Canada, as well as Oregon.
The upper-air winds have pushed the smoke all the way to the East Coast. The smoke is stacked in a two-mile layer at least five miles above the surface, according to the Inquirer.
The smoky, hazy skies have created unhealthy air conditions across the Philly region. High levels of a fine particulate matter called PM 2.5, a pollutant produced by wildfires, have been detected.
Officials in Philadelphia and New Jersey have all issued a code orange air quality alert for Wednesday, as air quality levels are expected to remain unhealthy for many residents. A code orange air quality alert is typically issued when the Air Quality Index is expected to remain in the orange tier.
The AQI measures air quality concentrations and separates it into six different categories; green for good air quality, yellow for moderate air quality, orange for unhealthy for sensitive groups, red for unhealthy air quality, purple for very unhealthy air quality and maroon for hazardous air quality.
The AQI currently sits at 147 in Philadelphia, according to the Department of Public Health. If the AQI were to eclipse 150, air quality would move into the red tier.
BREAKING: Today, July 21, 2021, has been declared a CODE ORANGE Particle Pollution Action Day in Philadelphia. During Air Quality Action Days, protect your health by limiting strenuous outdoor activities.— Philadelphia Public Health (@PHLPublicHealth) July 21, 2021
Learn more: https://t.co/gwKe1tmZRT pic.twitter.com/ObKu7bCPRc
The code orange alert issued Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection covers all of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties all encompass the code orange alert issued Wednesday by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The AQI was measured as high as 112 in Camden on Wednesday morning, according to the state. The AQI is expected to reach as high as 120 on Wednesday in the South Jersey city.
Air quality is expected to improve as the smoke dissipates following the passage of a cold front later on Wednesday that will bring cleaner air to the region.
Here is a look at the smoke forecast through tonight. The haze should clear out behind the approaching cold front. pic.twitter.com/1WQ6I5vfNL— NWS Mount Holly (@NWS_MountHolly) July 21, 2021
The air quality may be unhealthy for sensitive groups, who might experience some complications resulting from exposure. Sensitive groups include young children, the elderly, those suffering from heart or lung disease and those with respiratory issues like asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.
Those with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution are urged to limit strenuous outdoor activities and stay indoors. The general public is less likely to be affected.
Residents and businesses are also encouraged to reduce or eliminate fireplace and wood stove use, avoid open burning of leaves, trash and other materials and avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.