Smoke from the wildfires on the west coast is hanging over New England

“If it wasn’t for the smoke, we would be having bright blue skies.”

The Bobcat Fire at Santa Anita Canyon in Arcadia, Calif., Sunday, Sept., 13, 2020. Wildfires across the West Coast have consumed roughly five million acres of land in California and Oregon and destroyed entire towns in Washington, and they continued to spread on Sunday. (Eric Thayer/The New York Times)
The Bobcat Fire at Santa Anita Canyon in Arcadia, California, on Sunday. Wildfires across the West Coast have consumed roughly five million acres of land in California, Oregon, and Washington. –Eric Thayer/The New York Times

No, you’re not imagining it — the skies over Massachusetts Tuesday are decidedly hazy. 

And the culprit, according to meteorologists, is not clouds, but smoke from raging mega-wildfires on the West Coast that are devastating communities in California, Washington, and Oregon.

Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norton, Massachusetts, told Boston.com the jet stream is delivering the smoke — high up in the atmosphere — across the country into Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. 

It’s not usual for New England to see smoke brought in from aloft, but it’s typically coming in from the fires in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, he said. 

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“It certainly isn’t an everyday occurrence,” he said of seeing smoke from the West Coast, adding later, “If it wasn’t for the smoke, we would be having bright blue skies.”

Residents may notice the haze more at sunrise and sunset, Dunham said, when the sun is cutting through the atmosphere at an angle. 

“It’s more of a curiosity than any problem,” he said of the impacts of the smoke on New England. 

The meteorologist said the smoky haze will stick around as long as the jet stream setup remains, with likely a few days before it changes around with upper-level winds from the northwest to push the smoke out to sea. 

The fires have killed at least 35 people and forced tens of thousands to evacuate in California, Oregon, and Washington, delivering a shroud of smoke and dangerous air quality to cities up and down the West Coast.

On Tuesday, members of the Massachusetts Urban Search and Rescue Task Force flew to Portland, Oregon, where they will assist with recovery efforts for two weeks, helping West Coast residents impacted by the fires, WHDH reports.

“We take pride in representing our country and being the best we can to help other people,” Mark Foster, of the task force, told the station of his team’s deployment to provide support during the crisis.

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Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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