The West Coast wildfire smoke that’s trapped New York City in a noxious, sooty haze for the last 24 hours may soon be washed away — temporarily — by an approaching thunderstorm.
The National Weather Service has issued severe thunderstorm watch through 8:00 p.m., with the possibility of 70 mile-per-hour wind gusts, large hail, and isolated lightning.
That cold front will also help clear out the thick smoke that arrived this week from nearly 3,000 miles away, as at least 80 major wildfires rip through the western United States. The smoke brought particulate pollution nearly 10 times the exposure deemed safe by the World Health Organization, along with an Air Quality Index of 170, the worst recorded in the city in two decades.
But while Wednesday’s storm may cleanse the skies temporarily, we’re not out of the burning woods just yet.
“There is the potential for additional smoke to migrate its way into the region tomorrow and in subsequent days,” said Dominic Ramunni, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “It’s too early to say goodbye to the hazy skies permanently.”
In Southern Oregon, the Bootleg Fire, which is already covering more than 500 square miles, is expected to burn through Thanksgiving.
Experts believe that as the climate crisis accelerates the severity of wildfires, New Yorkers may be forced to grow accustomed to cross-continental smoke invasions — a scenario that is already prompting helpful tips from some Los Angelenos.