Contact:Jim Teet
NOAA News Releases 2006
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Portland, Ore., now joins 14 other metropolitan areas in the United States where NOAA's National Weather Service is using a customized Heat Health Watch/Warning System to enhance its ability of issuing accurate and timely heat-related advisories, watches and warnings and inform the public to take action to avoid health risks associated with periods of unusually high heat.

The Heat Health Watch/Warning System is a collaborative tool that measures oppressive air affecting health. It is part of a national focus addressing the impact of this special hazard on urban centers. When unseasonably hot conditions occur, the Portland weather forecast office will issue excessive heat watches, warnings and advisories to alert people in the region to take precautions against the hot weather.

“Excessive heat is the top weather-related killer in the U.S., causing more fatalities per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms, or extreme cold,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of NOAA's National Weather Service.

“Heat is a health hazard in the Portland area and this new system provides heat information tailored specifically to our area,” said Tyree Wilde, warning coordination meteorologist at the Portland weather forecast office. “People here are accustomed to a more temperate climate. When it gets unseasonably hot many people suffer, especially since many residences do not have air conditioning.”

Portland joins the list of cities with the Heat Health Watch/Warning System, which includes Dallas/Fort Worth; Phoenix; Yuma, Ariz.; Philadelphia; Chicago; St. Louis; Cincinnati/Dayton; New Orleans; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis, Tenn.; Shreveport, La., Lake Charles, La.; Jackson, Miss.; and Seattle.

“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 for the University of Delaware Center for Climatic Research and developer of the warning system. “A custom system is developed for each urban area, based on specific meteorology for each locale as well as urban structure and demographics.”

The Portland weather forecast office is collaborating with the health departments in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Columbia and Clark counties, as well as the American Red Cross and area emergency management agencies. This partnership will educate the community about the warning system and the risks of heat and safety measures to take during a hot spell.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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