As you prepare for your summer trip, keep in mind that unexpected wildfires raging in Canada’s northern forests may cause delays to your flight itineraries. Air traffic management has been forced to divert planes and cancel some journeys due to the dangerous flying conditions caused by billowing smoke from these severe fires that is drifting south into the U.S. From Seattle to Denver, the effects have been felt throughout the western United States, leaving tourists stuck or dealing with protracted delays and missed connections.
Airlines cannot overlook the risks posed by the smoke from wildfires. Low visibility can make takeoffs and landings dangerous, and exposure to a lot of smoke in the cabin might put passengers and crew in risk. These proactive cancellations and diversions, albeit annoying, are necessary to guarantee aviation safety during this wildfire season. Travelers should add extra buffer time to their itineraries and keep an eye out for information from airlines regarding potential disruptions as the summer continues and there is no sign of a break in the heat and dry weather that are causing the fires. Wildfire smoke has halted planes and disrupted cross-border travel plans, but the cloudy skies may eventually clear.
Heavy Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Drifts Into U.S. Airspace
Thick smoke from massive wildfires raging in Canada has drifted into U.S. airspace, disrupting air travel for Americans.
- The smoke has reduced visibility for pilots and obscured navigation points, forcing air traffic controllers to reroute flights around the heaviest smoke. Some flights have been delayed or canceled due to unsafe conditions.
- Major airports across the northern U.S., including Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, and Spokane have been impacted the most. However, smoke has also reached as far as Denver and Salt Lake City, over 1,000 miles away.
- The wildfires, fueled by hot and dry weather, have scorched over 1 million acres in British Columbia, and the situation is expected to worsen before conditions improve. The smoke may continue to create complications for U.S. air travel into next week until the fires are contained.
- Passengers should check with their airlines for updates on delays and cancelations. Air quality alerts have also been issued for some areas due to risks associated with long term exposure to wildfire smoke. Those with respiratory issues should take extra precautions when outside.
- U.S. and Canadian officials are working together to monitor smoke impacts and reroute air traffic to minimize disruptions, but safety remains the top priority. Some flights have been diverted to alternate airports when visibility drops below safe thresholds for landing and takeoff.
The effects of these massive wildfires highlight how interconnected our environment is across borders. By cooperating and sharing information, the U.S. and Canada can better safeguard public health and infrastructure during disasters that span both nations. With wildfire seasons becoming longer and more severe, this type of international partnership will be crucial going forward.
Flight Cancelations and Delays at Multiple U.S. Airports Due to Poor Visibility
The thick smoke from raging wildfires in Canada has disrupted air travel in the U.S., causing flight cancelations and delays at several major airports due to extremely poor visibility.
On July 19, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had over 200 flight cancelations as smoke from British Columbia wildfires moved into the area, reducing visibility to under a mile at times. Portland International Airport also saw over 30 cancelations and many delays for the same reason. The smoke is forecast to continue impacting the region for the next several days.
San Francisco International Airport experienced over 100 delayed flights and several cancelations on July 20 due to smoke from the same Canadian wildfires drifting southward and diminishing visibility. The Bay area faces a risk of the smoke persisting and further disrupting air travel in the coming week.
Several other Western U.S. airports, including Spokane, Boise, and Denver, have also reported flight delays and a small number of cancelations related to the smoke. The poor air quality and low visibility are hazardous for air travel and force air traffic controllers to increase the separation between aircraft and slow operations.
Passengers traveling to or from the affected regions should check with their airlines for potential schedule changes or cancelations due to the ongoing impacts of the wildfire smoke. The conditions are changeable, but the smoke may continue to reduce visibility for air travel in parts of the Western U.S. and cause further disruptions, demonstrating once more how environmental events can have far-reaching consequences.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Hit Hard by Smoke-Related Flight Disruptions
Significant Flight Disruptions
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has experienced major flight delays and cancelations due to smoke from Canadian wildfires drifting into the region. Over 200 flights have been grounded or rerouted to alternate airports as visibility has sometimes been reduced to less than a mile. The airport has warned travelers to expect ongoing disruptions over the coming days until weather conditions improve and the smoke clears from the area.
Health and Safety Concerns
The dense smoke has also raised health concerns from fine particulate matter that can irritate the eyes and respiratory system. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has issued an air quality alert, warning people to limit time outside and avoid strenuous activity. Sensitive groups like the elderly, children, and those with respiratory issues are especially at risk from prolonged exposure. The agency advises residents to be aware of symptoms like a tight chest, coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
What You Can Do
If you have a flight scheduled in or out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, check with your airline for the latest information on delays and cancelations. Be prepared for potential rebooking on alternate flights. Arrive at the airport early in case security screening is impacted by staffing issues.
Bring essential medications, eye drops, and face masks to help reduce smoke irritation and stay comfortable if you do travel or have to wait at the airport. Stay indoors as much as possible and run an air purifier to filter out particles. Limit physical activity and avoid strenuous exercise when outside.
This trying situation serves as an important reminder of humanity’s vulnerability to natural disasters and the climate crisis. Cooperation, patience and care for the community are vital in times of difficulty. The smoke will eventually clear, but the impacts of growing wildfires may linger. Together, we can work to build a more sustainable future.
Smoke From Wildfires May Impact Air Quality and Pose Health Risks in Some Areas
As wildfires rage in British Columbia, Canada, the thick smoke they produce can travel long distances and impact air quality for populations far from the actual fire locations. For some Americans, the smoke from these wildfires may pose health risks and disrupt air travel plans.
Health Effects of Wildfire Smoke Exposure
Exposure to wildfire smoke can irritate your eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and may worsen symptoms for those with respiratory diseases. The very fine particulate matter in smoke can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, potentially causing more severe short- and long-term health effects. At-risk groups like children, older adults, and those with respiratory or heart diseases should limit prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors when smoke is thick.
- Eye, nose and throat irritation: stinging eyes, runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing
- Wheezing and shortness of breath: smoke inhalation can trigger asthma attacks and COPD symptoms
- Chest pain: the fine particles in smoke may temporarily reduce lung function and worsen heart disease
- Fatigue and dizziness: smoke exposure reduces the amount of oxygen in the air, causing tiredness and impaired thinking
Flight Cancelations and Delays Due to Reduced Visibility
The thick smoke from wildfires can greatly reduce visibility for pilots during take-off and landing, forcing airlines to cancel or delay flights for safety. Smoke conditions change frequently with the wind, so impacted airports and flights may differ from day to day. Passengers traveling to or from airports near active wildfires should check with their airline for updates on delays or cancelations before heading to the airport. Be prepared for potential itinerary changes on short notice.
The impacts of wildfire smoke often extend far beyond the locations of the actual fires. By understanding the risks to health and air travel from prolonged smoke exposure, Americans can take appropriate precautions to limit disruptions. Check local air quality reports and warnings to stay informed about smoke conditions in your area.
When Will the Smoke Clear? Forecast Calls for Improving Conditions, but More Fires Possible
The thick smoke blanketing much of western Canada from raging wildfires is severely disrupting air travel in the United States. According to forecasts, conditions may start improving in the coming days. However, the possibility of new fires starting remains.
Improving Weather Conditions
As of this writing, over 60 wildfires are burning across British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, covering over 1 million acres. Weather conditions that have fueled these massive blazes, including hot temperatures and high winds, are expected to become more favorable for firefighting in the next few days. Cooler temperatures, increased humidity, and lighter winds should help slow the spread of existing fires and make it safer for crews to battle the flames.
Smoke Drifting South
The massive amounts of smoke from these wildfires have drifted into the northern U.S., reducing visibility and creating hazardous flying conditions. Many flights in and out of airports from Washington state to Montana have been delayed or canceled as a result. As the weather improves and the wildfires come under control, the dense smoke plaguing airports and travelers should start to clear out. However, it may take several days of favorable conditions for the smoke to fully dissipate.
Potential for New Fires
While the forecast calls for improved weather conditions to help contain current wildfires, the fire risk remains. The region has experienced tinder-dry conditions this summer, and temperatures are still running above average. All it takes is a lightning strike, an improperly extinguished campfire, or a careless act to spark a new wildfire. Officials urge continued vigilance to help prevent more fires from starting. Travelers should remain flexible as new fires may lead to more flight disruptions.
The hazardous smoke from massive Canadian wildfires has caused significant disruptions to U.S. air travel, but improving weather conditions offer hope the worst may soon pass. However, the possibility of additional fires starting means travelers should remain alert for potential delays or cancelations in the coming days. Close monitoring of conditions and advanced coordination with airlines is advised.
As the wildfires in Canada rage on, the effects are being felt far and wide. The thick smoke is disrupting air travel for thousands of passengers across the western United States and threatening tourism revenue in scenic areas. While the fires themselves are devastating to communities, the reach of their impact highlights our interconnectedness and vulnerability to events outside our control. The only way through the haze is patience and understanding. Though the delays and cancelations are frustrating, the safety of passengers and crews must come first. The fires will eventually burn out, the skies will clear, and normal life will resume. In the meantime, we can offer our support for those in the direct path of the flames and be grateful for the fresh air in our own lungs. There are always unseen forces shaping the world around us, for better and for worse. But that which affects one region or group may well end up affecting us all. We are more united than divided, linked by the very air we breathe, and the planet we inhabit.