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Canadian wildfire smoke gives Minnesota city the worst air in the US

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – St Paul had the worst air quality in the United States (US) on Wednesday as smoke from massive Canadian wildfires drifted across Minnesota a week after similar smoke blanketed the northeastern US.

The smoke was “near the worst” on record for the Twin Cities, the Star-Tribune reported, citing Nick Witcraft, an air-quality meteorologist with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Air quality hit “red” on the US government’s colour-coded index, meaning it was unhealthy for everyone. The air was particularly dangerous for children, older people and those with asthma and conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Karen Berg-Moberg decided to go on a bike ride at Como Lake in St Paul with a friend despite the air. She was ready to cut their trip short if needed but didn’t think the smoke would slow them down.

St Paul had an air quality index, or AQI, reading of 256 at 6pm on Wednesday, according to AirNow.gov, a website published by US government agencies.

The index runs from zero to 500. The higher the number, the worse the air quality. In July 2021, the index reached 182 in the Twin Cities, also after wildfire smoke drifted down from Canada.

Minneapolis public parks officials cancelled events for music and movies in the park and outdoor activities on Wednesday. St. Paul cancelled all youth and adult athletics.

Last week, massive fires burning up stretches of Canadian forests blanketed the northeastern US, turning the air a yellowish grey and prompting warnings for people to stay inside and keep windows closed.

Haze envelopes the Minneapolis skyline from smoke drifted over from the wildfires in Canada. PHOTO: AP
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