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Rendom Thoughts

Up in smoke

Hudson Cooper
Posted 7/14/23

While we are accustomed to getting numbers for the temperature outside, many of us now check on the AQI. The Air Quality Index dictates whether it is safe to leave your house. A few weeks ago, the …

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Rendom Thoughts

Up in smoke


While we are accustomed to getting numbers for the temperature outside, many of us now check on the AQI. The Air Quality Index dictates whether it is safe to leave your house. A few weeks ago, the number was 48. Yesterday it was a satisfactory 25.

Jimi Hendrix had a hit song back in the 60’s that had the lyrics, “Purple Haze all in my brain. Lately things they don’t seem the same.” The smoky haze that so many of us suffered through recently was a deep orange, not a deep purple. Ironically, the band called Deep Purple had a hit in 1972 called “Smoke on the Water.”

I cannot remember ever being subjected to smoke and particles from vast wildfires in Canada. The are trending to larger more powerful fires. Here’s the most intimidating note. The historical fire season in Canada does not begin until the end of July and continues into September. So far, the fires have ravaged over 12 million acres of Canadian trees. That represents more destroyed acreage than the recorded yearly loss in all but 3 calendar years since 1983. 

The fires have amped up in their intensity due largely to that 2-word phrase that unfortunately will continue to cause problems for everyone. Global warming has caused extensive heat waves and parched lands that make bushes and trees easy tinder for spreading forest fires.

Global warming has produced larger, hotter and more intense fires which send smoke and microscopic particles higher into the atmosphere. The higher the elevation, the greater the risk that the smoky haze will seep into prevailing winds and sweep down into the United States. 

The resulting smoke travels wherever the wind takes it. During the last blast, NASA reported that the smoky haze many of us in the United States witnessed had also made its way across the Atlantic eventually invading Europe.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed how quickly the smoky haze can envelop a region. I went to New York City to visit some friends. On the drive down, weather reports talked about the possibility that fires in Canada could impact the tristate area. I followed advice from the American Automobile Association to keep the windows closed, air conditioner on low and making sure to activate the air circulating system. The sky was clear, sunny without any visible trace of the dreaded smoke.

The next morning, the news stations began warning that by noon, New York City would be clobbered by a smoke-filled bright orange haze. Following the advice that came as a notice on my cell phone, I downloaded the app called AIRNOW.GOV. Entering the zip code of where I was staying in Manhattan, the app indicated that the air quality registered a 41, still in the safe zone.

I decided to take advantage of the nice, sunny day and walk the 15 blocks to see my friends. Hours later, I looked out a window and saw the dreaded thick orange haze. Grabbing my cell phone, I checked my air quality app and reported to my friends that the air quality number was 468. The scale only goes up to 500! New York City had the worst air quality on Earth. 

My friends provided me with a N95 mask, left over from the days of covid. Instead of walking back to where I was staying, I took an Uber and spent the next 3 days indoors. When I saw that the air quality had dropped to 43, it was safe for me to return to Sullivan County.

I agree with many pundits that environmental events will continue to impact our existence. For example, so far nobody has figured out how to stop the smoke-filled Canadian wind from endangering the USA.

Here’s a thought. You know those tall wind turbines that create renewable energy. We could install thousands of them along our northern border. Each turbine would have a “sister” windmill facing north that would use the captured energy to push the smoke back to Canada. Not a bad idea, “Eh.”

Hudson Cooper is a resident of Sullivan County, a writer, comedian and actor.


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