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Canadian Wildfires Create “Hazardous” Air in Schuylkill County

Surreal scenes over Pottsville

Smoke and haze caused by reported wildfires in Canada choked out what was supposed to be a bright, sunny day in Pottsville, PA, on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.
Smoke and haze caused by reported wildfires in Canada choked out what was supposed to be a bright, sunny day in Pottsville, PA, on Wednesday, June 7, 2023.

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.

A dense haze hangs over Pottsville, looking east toward Port Carbon, in this view from the Henry Clay monument. (Coal Region Canary photos)

Data from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) displayed at, 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.

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The Pottsville Area High School planetarium and Sharp Mountain are barely visible from Mt. Hope Ave. in this shot taken a few hours before sunset on Wednesday. The thick haze and smoke from the reported Canadian wildfires lingered through the night over the city.

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.

You can typically see Route 61 traffic clear as a bell from the base of the Henry Clay monument in Pottsville. Not so on Wednesday afternoon as the wildfire smoke and haze smothered the city.

Unhealthy air conditions are expected to persist in Schuylkill County on Thursday with some potential relief coming on Friday.

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