National Weather Service testing new heat stress index to give people earlier warnings

Monday, June 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) _ The National Weather Service is testing a new system of heat stress advisories to provide earlier warnings for people vulnerable to oppressive heat and humidity.

The tests are being conducted only in the agency's Southern Region, but if it works well the alert system could be expanded to the National Weather Service nationally, said Lee Harrison, head of the Shreveport office.

The weather service will continue to use the heat index, a number based on a combination of temperature and humidity. Under that system, an advisory is issued when the heat index is likely to reach 105 degrees by day and 80 degrees at night over a 48-hour period.

The weather service said the trial system, which takes effect Monday, expands the advisory into three categories:

_ A heat watch, when heat-stress conditions are expected in the next 24 to 48 hours.

_ A heat advisory is issued when heat-stress problems are expected within the next 24 hours, with higher levels of heat discomfort.

_ An excessive heat warning will signal danger, requiring such steps as seeking air-conditioned buildings, drinking extra water and avoiding outdoor activities.

``They tried it last summer in New Orleans, but it was a mild summer,'' said Matt Foster, a weather service meteorologist in Shreveport.

The trial is being expanded from the New Orleans to other cities in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.