The air over Pottsville and much of Schuylkill County was about as bad as it could get on Wednesday.
Smoke from Canadian wildfires continued to choke out what was supposed to be another perfect, sunny Spring day here in the coal region.
And while the sun did shine, the giant gas ball failed to cut through a thick haze and smoke from the reported wildfires in Ontario and Quebec.
Data from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) displayed at AirNow.gov, measured PM2.5, particulate matter that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter at “Hazardous” levels from the early afternoon through midnight Wednesday.
At its highest, according to Canary observations, the AQI (Air Quality Index) used by AirNow measured 462. AQI ranges from 0 (the best) to 500 (the worst). As we entered Wednesday, the AQI for Pottsville was still 418.
While the scenes over Schuylkill County didn’t quite match the apocalyptic orange nature of photos from New York City on Wednesday, it was rather surreal to see such a thick haze caused by the smoke.
The “Hazardous” level of air quality prompted the EPA to advice everyone to stay indoors on Wednesday. While it wasn’t any sort of order, it appeared many people heeded that advice locally.
On our trip to the grocery store, we noticed it was rather empty for the post-work rush hour. Traffic on Route 61 at that time was unusually light, too.
Unhealthy air conditions are expected to persist in Schuylkill County on Thursday with some potential relief coming on Friday.