Weather Service Updates Criteria For Heat-Related Advisories

Oak Hill, WV (WOAY-TV): Even though Mother Nature will be reverting back to winter in early May, summer is just around the corner. The local weather service office has made a few updates to the thresholds to heat-related alerts starting this summer.

The adjustments only impact Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe and Summers county. A heat advisory will be issued when the heat index reaches 100 degrees as opposed to the previous threshold of 105 degrees. The most extreme heat-related alert, an excessive heat warning, only requires a heat index forecast of 105 degrees compared to the previous threshold of 110 degrees.

In recent memory, the most Heat Advisories issued for our mountain counties along Route 219 was the summer of 2012. Very few were issued in recent years, but that could change with the lower threshold.

More people die from the heat than any other weather hazard. As the weather service indicates, the reason for lowering the standards for Heat Advisories and Excessive Heat Warnings is the number of emergency room visits when the criteria for these alerts fell just shy of the previous thresholds.

Health officials and emergency management signed off on the recent change in hopes fewer people will suffer from heat related illness.

Chief Meteorologist Chad Merrill interviewed the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Blacksburg, Va., office this weekend.

Here are a few questions answered in the video above.

The first heat wave of the season can trigger the most health-related issues because we are not acclimated to such a combination of high temperatures and humidity. When your staff sees the first heat wave on the horizon, do they issue heat advisories, even if the heat index is expected to fall just short of threshold?

Many colleges are turning to the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature to get an assessment of the heat stress for their sports players because it factors in temperature, cloud cover and wind in direct sunlight whereas the heat index does not. Do you see the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature gaining traction and eventually replacing the heat index scale for heat advisory and excessive heat warning criteria?

The change will mean more heat related advisories will be issued and people will be more apt to heed the advice in the heat related message. The hope is people will hydrate and avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day and as a result the ER will see fewer people due to heat related illnesses.

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