NOAA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DEBUTS NEW HEAT/HEALTH WATCH WARNING SYSTEM IN THE SEATTLE AREA
April 21, 2005 — The NOAA National Weather Service today announced the implementation of a new Heat/Health Watch Warning System in the Seattle area. Seattle joins 14 other metropolitan areas using the Heat/Health Watch Warning System as guidance for issuing Excessive Heat Watches, Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories. (Click NOAA image for larger version of Seattle, Wash., skyline. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)
The Heat/Health Watch Warning System is a collaborative tool that measures oppressive air affecting health and is part of a national focus addressing the special hazards excessive heat has on urban centers. When unseasonably hot conditions do arise, the Seattle NOAA National Weather Service office will issue a Heat/Health Watch Warning System message, alerting people in the region that precautions need to be taken against the hot weather.
"Based on NOAA National Weather Service data from 1994 to 2003, excessive heat is the top weather-related killer, causing more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms or extreme cold," said retired Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service. "The excessive heat program that started in Philadelphia in 1995 is proving to be a model for the rest of the country."
An average of three or four heat-related fatalities occur in the Seattle area during a typical summer. More lives are at risk during abnormally hot summers, such as in 1992 when 50 to 60 people died.
"Heat is a health hazard in the Seattle area and this new Heat/Health Watch Warning System provides tailored excessive heat information specific to our area," said Ted Buehner, warning coordination meteorologist of the Seattle office. "People are acclimated to a more temperate climate and when it gets unseasonably hot, many people suffer, especially since air conditioning in residences is rare."
Seattle joins the list of cities with the Heat/Health Watch Warning System that includes Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Phoenix/Yuma, Ariz., Los Angeles/Oxnard, Calif., Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Chicago; St. Louis; Cincinnati/Dayton; New Orleans; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis, Tenn.; Shreveport, La., Lake Charles, La.; and Jackson, Miss.
"The Heat/Health Watch Warning System is the first and only meteorological tool that identifies oppressive air masses that historically diminish people's health," said Laurence Kalkstein, Ph.D., senior research fellow in the University of Delaware's Center for Climatic Research and developer of the new system. "A custom-made system is developed for each urban area, based on specific meteorology for each locale as well as urban structure and demographics."
The Seattle NOAA National Weather Service office is collaborating with the health departments in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties as well as the Washington State Department of Health, the American Red Cross and area emergency management agencies. This partnership aims to better educate the community in advance about the risks of heat, what safety measures can be taken during a hot spell and the new Heat/Health Watch Warning System.
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