Tonight's Dairy Parade cancelled

Canadian wildfires affect region


A thick haze and the scent of burning wood swept through Cortland Tuesday, carried on northerly winds from Quebec and Ontario as wildfires continued to rage just over Canada’s southern border.

The smoke and resulted in air quality warnings Monday from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Wednesday from the county health department.

The Cortland County Dairy Promotion Committee called off the Cortland County Dairy Parade due to these air quality concerns, Tess Southern, chair of the committee confirmed Tuesday.

“We have been following the air quality announcement that has been occurring, and have been working closely with the health department and county officials on the air quality,” she said. “We feel that it is best to cancel the parade for the safety of those who would participate and enjoy it.”

She said that the committee has no confirmed rain date for the parade but is looking into its options.

“We are incredibly sorry for any inconveniences this may have caused to participants and those attending we just have everyone's safety in mind,” Southern said.

The Canadian Natural Resources Department reported more than 50 ongoing wildfires Tuesday in the forests north of Montreal, with more dotting thousands of hectares of the country's southern provinces.

“There is low air pressure of the shores of New England right now, which is keeping the wind from the North and Northwest going,” said Mark Pellerito, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Binghamton. “There are dozens of large wildfires in Quebec and Ontario and we continue to have northerly winds bringing smoke and haze down, pumping copious amounts of smoke from Canada into Central New York.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality report Monday morning, warning that members of sensitive groups could experience health effects from fine particles in the air, but that the general public would not likely be affected.

The alert was to end Monday evening but the department extended it to early Wednesday.

“Anybody with any respiratory conditions could have a problem,” said Mariah Pieretti M.D of Cortland Asthma and Allergy Associates. “I don't take care of patients with diabetes or cardiovascular disease, but they may have side effects because of this as well. The symptoms we’d be concerned about are a heavy-feeling chest, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or an itchy, irritated throat.”

Pieretti urged those with preexisting respiratory conditions to limit outdoor exposure until up to 48 hours after air quality warnings expire to limit the risk of symptoms like respiratory inflammation.

“I would say for sure a lot of patients with asthma should certainly limit time and exercise outdoors and expect asthma to flare,” she said. “Cigarette smoke and diesel exhaust in the air can trigger asthmatics at any point, but in a situation like this where just being outside can trigger most asthmatics, we really recommend upping their controllers and staying inside.”

Pellerito said that, though the National Weather Service is involved with spreading the word on air quality warnings, the DEC is solely responsible for issuing said warnings.

“The worst of it is today but we’ll still be dealing with smoke for the next few days as the wind continues from the north to northwest,” he said. “Once we reach the weekend there's a chance of rain and that should abate things in terms of smoke, but anytime we get northerly wind until the fires are all out, there could be some smoke.”

When pollution levels are elevated, the New York State Department of Health recommends that individuals consider limiting strenuous outdoor physical activity to reduce the risk of adverse health effects and that people who may be especially sensitive to the effects of elevated levels of pollutants include the very young and those with pre-existing respiratory problems such as asthma or heart disease.

“We don't usually have this many fires all at once just directing smoke right at us,” Pellerito said. “Sometimes we'll get haze in our air but it's usually about 10,000 or so feet up. Earlier this season we had smoke coming all the way from North-west Canada, and it didn’t really impact us.

“In this case, it's coming from Quebec and there's just so much of it that we're getting it throughout the lower 10,000 feet of the atmosphere and it‘s enough to drop visibility to a mile-and-a-half to 3 miles in some areas,” he said