After two days recording “hazardous” readings on the Air Quality Index (AQI) scale, Baltimore residents can breathe easier today, as numbers dropped back down to “acceptable” levels this morning.
As of 12 p.m. on Friday, AirNow estimated Baltimore’s AQI to be 75.
Readings in the 70s are a welcome relief to a region where the AQI scale topped 200 over the last couple of days.
“Smoke continues to linger over the region Friday, but concentrations have dropped below ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ (Code Orange) air quality alert levels,” the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) Air Quality Forecast read this morning.
There is also a 60% chance of rain in Baltimore today, which could further dissipate the smokiness in the sky.
(As rain falls through the atmosphere, it attracts particles in the air through a process called coagulation. As raindrops travel downward, they take these particles with them, thus pulling them out of the air.)
AirNow estimates ozone to overtake fine particulate matter (PM2.5) as the primary pollutant in Baltimore’s air as early as Sunday, and projects AQI levels of 78 and 84 on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
AQI readings at or below 100 are acceptable, while anything above is problematic for some subsections of the population.
The updated guidance comes after wind patterns had carried a plume of smoke from the Canadian wildfires all the way down the East Coast.
Hazardous conditions were recorded from New York City, which experienced orange skies for much of Wednesday, to Atlanta, which issued a Code Orange alert today.
Baltimore got the brunt of the smoke yesterday, with residents urged to shelter in place whenever possible and wear masks if they had to be outside.
Despite the improved conditions, the city has kept some precautions in place today. Day centers remain open for Baltimore residents experiencing homelessness. The shelters are located at My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, Beans & Bread and Franciscan Center.
The city health department continues to recommend that residents who are sensitive to air pollution – such as children, older adults and people with preexisting respiratory or cardiovascular conditions – to limit their time outdoors and monitor current conditions.