As summer begins, it is important to remember that prolonged exposure to heat, especially when humidity is high, can have some serious health consequences. But why is this? Your body cools itself off on a hot day through the evaporation of sweat. The energy required for the liquid water in your sweat to evaporate and become water vapor comes from the heat in your body, thus regulating your body temperature and keeping you from overheating. However, when there is a lot of water vapor in the air, the air is close to saturation – the point where the atmosphere cannot hold any more water vapor. The more water vapor is in the air, the less water vapor can evaporate from your skin, which slows down your body’s cooling mechanism and makes it less effective. Below is a chart from the National Weather Service that shows heat index, or the temperature that it feels like outside with increasing humidity, as well as the level of danger associated with each heat index value.
The longer you spend outside in hot and humid conditions, the more vulnerable you become to heat-related illness. This is because your body does not have a chance to cool itself, as the previously mentioned cooling mechanism of sweat evaporation cannot work. When outdoors during the summer, remember to drink water and spend time periodically in the shade or in an air-conditioned building. Symptoms of heat-related illness include nausea, flushed skin, rapid breathing and heart rate, and a headache. If you or another person are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek shade, water, and medical attention right away.
It is also important to remember that young children, the elderly, and pets are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illness. Young children’s bodies do not regulate temperature as well as adults’, and they may not remember to drink enough water while playing outside. Older adults’ ability to notice change in body temperature decreases with age, and they may have other health conditions that make them more susceptible to heat-related illness. Pets, on the other hand, do not sweat like we do – therefore, they cannot get rid of excess body heat.
Remember to be on the lookout for symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others as you enjoy time outdoors during warm summer months!
For more about weather safety, visit https://www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/weather-safety-educational-topics
©2019 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
Image from the National Weather Service
As the start of summer fast approaches, many people will be beginning their summer vacations. Those vacations are likely to include many trips to the beach and coasts across the country. While enjoying the sand and the surf, it is important to keep in mind a few safety tips as summer kicks off!
The astronomical start of summer is June 21st however, beaches tend to open the last weekend of May. A common danger while at the beach is rip currents. A rip current is defined by the National Weather Service as a current of water that flows away from the shore at surf beaches. Rip currents are narrow and often perpendicular (90 degrees) to the shoreline. Rip currents extend from the shore line through the area between the high tide level on the beach and the seaward side of breaking waves. This area is known as the surf zone. When a wave breaks near the shore, the water piles up between the breaking waves and the shore.
Rip currents can be deadly if one does not know how to be prepared for them. A rip current can pull someone off shore and due to various factors like fear, exhaustion, panic, or lack of swimming skills they can cause a person to be unable to make their way back to shore. If the right wave and beach conditions are present, the speed of a rip current can become dangerous very quickly. Rip currents can be as narrow as 10 feet or as wide as 20 feet. If caught in a rip current, following some simple steps can help save your life. Officials recommend when caught in a rip current, to stay calm and don’t swim against the current. Swim out of the current and back to shore, but if you cannot escape float on your back or tread water. Call out for help by yelling and waving. Rip Currents won’t pull a person underneath the water. Remembering these tips can help make the water much safer.
Summer is a time to enjoy the nice weather and the water. Before you head out, check the National Weather Service beach forecast to see what conditions are like in your area. Make sure that you are heading to a swimming area that has posted lifeguard stations and lifeguards on duty. Try to swim with or travel to the beach with another person in case anything happens.
For more information on beach hazards and safety be sure to check out the National Weather Service page here
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© 2019 Meteorologist Shannon Scully
You’ve probably seen watches and warnings for severe weather on TV or posted on social media by the National Weather Service. Watches and warnings are intended to help people know and prepare for the different types of severe weather that might impact them. But what is the difference between a watch and a warning? There are slight differences between a watch and a warning for different types of weather hazards. It is important to know the difference between them in order to be ready for weather threats.
Let’s start with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. A watch is issued when the conditions are right for one of these to occur. This means that there is sufficient atmospheric instability, lift, moisture and wind shear (changes in wind direction with height, or rotation) present for severe thunderstorms and/or tornadoes to develop. A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm, capable of producing one-inch hail or wind speeds of 58mph or greater has developed and been spotted on radar. A tornado warning is issued in two cases: either when a tornado has been spotted, or radar has indicated rotation that is the signature of an imminent or developing tornado.
Flash flood watches and warnings are similar. A watch is issued when current atmospheric conditions make flooding likely to occur. A warning is issued when flash flooding is occurring.
Hurricane watches and warnings work a little bit differently, because of the level of preparation that it takes to be ready for a hurricane’s impact. A hurricane watch indicates that sustained winds of 74+ miles per hour are possible in the area under the watch. It is issued 48 hours before the onset of tropical storm force winds (39+ mph). This allows people the time necessary to prepare for the oncoming storm, whether this is buying canned foods and one gallon of water per person per day, or evacuation. A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours before the onset of tropical storm force winds. At this point, all preparation should be completed, and evacuation should occur if directed by local officials.
Winter storms are multifaceted, with a number of different hazards. Watches are issued for winter storms and blizzards, where a blizzard involves low visibility (0.25 miles) and winds of 35+ mph. Like with severe thunderstorms, a watch means that atmospheric conditions are favorable for a winter storm or blizzard to occur in the area. Winter storms have an intermediate step between a watch and a warning, called an advisory. A winter weather advisory is issued when 3-5” of snow in 12 hours, less than 1” of sleet, freezing rain with sleet/snow, and/or blowing snow is expected in an area. A freezing rain advisory is issued when ice accumulation of less than 0.25” is expected. Finally, there are three types of warnings associated with winter weather. A winter storm warning is issued when 6” of snow in 12 hours, or 8” in 24, is expected. An ice storm warning comes when ice accumulation greater than 0.25” is forecasted, and a blizzard warning is issued when blizzard conditions are forecasted to last at least 3 hours in the area.
While these different types of watches and warnings can be confusing, an easy rule to remember is that a watch means conditions are favorable for a weather event to occur, while a warning means that the event is either currently happening or on its way. Remember to use this information to guide you in preparing for any of these weather hazards!
©2019 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
For more weather safety content, visit: https://www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/weather-safety-educational-topics
Image: Stock Photo
DISCUSSION: When it comes to preparing and being ready for hurricane season, there is nothing more important in being completely ready and having a plan in hand. Whether it’s being aware and knowing exactly where you’re going to go and when you’re going to leave for a given destination, or even knowing what supplies you’re going to need on hand at the last minute, there are a myriad of different things that anyone would need to prepare for to be ready for an incoming tropical storm of any intensity.
First and foremost, before any hurricane season gets into full swing, is most important to always have an emergency evacuation plan. The context of an emergency evacuation plan will often depend upon how close you are into a given coastline and how far away from the given coastline you need to get to be in a location that is deemed to be sufficiently safe in the event of a major tropical cyclone making landfall. For example, if you live along an immediate coastline or even near a mangrove forest or swamp land region, you may need to get substantially faraway serves neither location will provide sufficient coverage and protection from the incoming wind and corresponding storm surge induced by a tropical cyclone. Moreover, organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (or FEMA) are responsible for establishing and maintaining the divisions of regions which are deemed to be flood zones in coastal states (and/or regions) across the United States of America. So, knowing whether you happen to live in a flood zone or not is a major first step in being prepared for any scenario which may come about at a given point in time.
Another major factor which is critical to be sufficiently prepared for a threat from an approaching tropical cyclone involves knowing all the food, medications and other personal items you may need with you if you are away from your home for a prolonged period. Often, after a major hurricane makes landfall in a given region, it can often be days, weeks, or even months until you may be able to return to your home city in some cases. Therefore, it is absolute critical to be prepared for the worst but hope for the best in all situations when it comes to tropical cyclone threats. So, regardless of whether you have never been impacted by a tropical cyclone your life or if you have had a tremendous amount of experience with tropical cyclone impacts from the past, you should NEVER take any experiences for granted and always remain vigilant of any future potential tropical cyclone threats and tropical cyclone forecasters are indicating as such.
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© 2019 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz