Smoke from wildfires in Canada that pushed deep into the United States this week has reached new areas in the South, including North Carolina and Georgia, which largely escaped the toxic drift blowing from the fires in June, officials said.
“Terrible up here!” Merry Miller Weis, a 70-year-old resident of the Western North Carolina mountains, wrote an email to state climate scientists. “The mountains are not even visible. This is the worst since the Canadian fires started.”
In June, heavy smoke from fires in the Canadian province of Quebec drifted toward the East Coast, enveloped parts of New York and moved through other states, beyond Washington, and as far west as Minnesota. This month, a vast plume spewed from fires in Canada’s Northwest, choking the sky and raising warnings about the impact on health.
Corey Davis, the assistant state climatologist in North Carolina, said in an interview on Tuesday that his office received the unsolicited email from Jackson County, a part of the state that was new territory for smoke attributed to the Canadian fires to linger. In June, it appeared mostly in the north-central urban region known as the Triad.
“It’s now more concentrated in the West,” Mr Davis said. “We have a high-pressure system parked over the western part of the state. It’s like putting a lid on a pot of boiling water. Smoke for the most part from the western Canadian wildfires is basically trapped right at ground level.”
As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, more than 44 million people in 28 states and Washington were still affected by smoke from the fires, and many states in the South are under heat advisories, including parts of Georgia and Tennessee.
In Greensboro, an air quality index reading was in the 152 range early Tuesday, and in Atlanta, the index read 150 by midday, both unhealthy levels.
Mr. Davis, describing the sky in Raleigh as “pale orange, a completely blank canvas,” said the western region of the state “may be a little worse than what we had last month.” He said the state was at “Code Orange” — meaning unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups — for four days last month, “the most in 11 years.”
In Georgia, smoke infiltrated the skies over more communities in Atlanta and along the Tennessee border, and for the first time in Athens, said Jim Boylan, chief of the air protection branch at the Georgia Department of Environmental Protection.
That data was based on particulate matter readings from seven monitors: five around Atlanta, one in Rossville and one in Athens, he said. All were Code Orange on the air quality index, meaning unhealthy for sensitive groups. In June, four monitors took those readings.
“This time we have more places than last time,” he said.
Over the past few days, government officials have advised residents to limit their outdoor activity and, in some cases, wear a mask.
“I was running a quick errand, and my eyes and throat feel like they’re burning,” Ms. Weis said in the email to Mr. Davis. “And I was wearing a mask!”
Reached by phone Tuesday, she said the smoke settled below the tree line in the mountains where she lives in the Cullowhee area, obscuring her view of Blue Ridge Mountain and Mount Pisgah, about 40 miles away as the crow flies.
“Usually, it’s a spectacular sight,” she said. “But they just disappeared.”