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National Weather Service Providing New Information to Keep Beachgoers Safe
Agency Seeks Feedback on New Service


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
John Cole, 252/223-5122 ext. 223
Susan Buchanan, 301/713-0622 ext. 121

Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012 as a courtesy to NOAA's National Weather Service, a strong partner with North Carolina Sea Grant in rip current awareness and other beach safety education programs.

NOAA's National Weather Service in Eastern North Carolina will begin testing a new "Beach Hazards Statement" to provide a single location for all coastal and beach hazards information, including the expected timing and impacts of the hazard and recommended actions for preparedness and safety.

The agency launched a Weather-Ready Nation initiative in 2011 that has spurred improvements in communicating risks to the public for many types of hazards. This initiative was prompted when Weather Service staff realized that many rescues, injuries and deaths in coastal areas were related to beach hazards not currently addressed in official watches, warnings and advisories. The new statement will include information on routine coastal hazards, such as rip currents, and unusual ecological hazards identified by NOAA's National Ocean Service.

The Newport/Morehead City, NC office is one of six National Weather Service forecast offices that will begin piloting the new tool on May 15, along with Grand Rapids, Mich.; San Francisco Bay Area, Calif.; New Orleans/Baton Rouge, La.; Seattle, Wash.; and Tampa Bay, Fla.

Beach Hazards Statements will inform the public about a wide range of hazards, including rip currents and rough seas, unusually cold water temperatures, potential for lightning along the shoreline, high heat indices and unusual wave conditions. The statement also may include non-weather related ecological hazards impacting beaches, such as chemical spills, harmful algal blooms, high bacteria levels in the ocean, dangerous marine wildlife near beaches and potentially unsafe marine debris.

"We're simplifying beach hazard information to make it more accessible to the American public," said Rich Bandy, Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service in Newport/Morehead City. "Whether you're taking your family to the beach for a relaxing day or loading up the boat for a day of fishing, these new statements will provide situational awareness of the conditions you may face so you can plan accordingly."

Beach Hazard Statements will be issued for a given coastal area as needed within 12-24 hours of a threat. The statement may be issued further in advance if there is high confidence in the forecast or if the threat is widespread. This new product is being tested as part of the National Weather Service's effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation. Equipped with valuable information about beach hazards, coastal residents and visitors will be better equipped to make decisions to protect their health and safety.

Before possibly expanding this initiative to other parts of the country, the agency will gauge the success and value of the new service. National Weather Service partners and customers, including members of the public, are encouraged to provide feedback at: weather.gov/survey/nws-survey.php?code=CHMBHS. The test will continue until further notice unless the agency receives significant negative feedback.

The National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. It operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy. Working with partners, the National Weather Service is building a Weather-Ready Nation to support community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather. Visit us online at weather.gov and on Facebook.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/usnoaagov.

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NOTE TO EDITORS:  For more information on rip current awareness and other beach safety education programs, visit:  http://ripcurrents.noaa.gov/.