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Red Flag is no bull

Warnings as legit as other weather alerts

Published: Friday, April 13, 2012 7:36 a.m. CDT

Especially in this age of modern technology, when alerts can be sent instantaneously to any manner of electronic devices, Americans have come to rely on and trust the weather warnings issued by the National Weather Service.

When the NWS issues a tornado warning, people instinctively gather their loved ones and head for their basements.

When a blizzard warning is issued, we in the Midwest make a beeline to the grocery store to stock up on milk, bread and other necessities just in case the massive amounts of snow keep up stuck at home for days at a time.

If a severe thunderstorm warning is raised for an area, most are likely to think twice about going ahead with a round of golf out of fear that swinging a metal stick above their heads might not be the safest course of action.

Yet, time after time over the past week, it has become apparent that, in the face of a Red Flag Warning, some people still do not think twice about taking a match to a pile of wood, landscape refuse or other debris.

In recent days, that lack of regard for NWS alerts of such dangerous weather conditions, has resulted in a number of brush fires throughout the area, as well as at least two fires locally that resulted in the loss of sheds and other belongings.

We at the Morris Daily Herald cannot help but shake our heads and wonder why carelessness has been so prevalent, especially when we know that these Red Flag Fire warnings were being announced daily by the NWS through a number of outlets, including the Morris Daily Herald’s own text-alert system.

The only explanation we can think of it that, while everyone knows what a tornado and a blizzard are, not everyone understands what precipitates a Red Flag warning or bothers to understand the reasons such a warning is issued.

Here and now, we at the MDH will make an effort to remove this lack of knowledge from the equation by explaining a Red Flag Warning, courtesy of the National Weather Service JetStream Online School for Weather, which can be found at http://www.srh.weather.gov/jetstream/.

The JetStream glossary defines it as: “A term used by fire-weather forecasters to call attention to limited weather conditions of particular importance that may result in extreme burning conditions. It is issued when it is an on-going event or the fire weather forecaster has a high degree of confidence that Red Flag criteria will occur within 24 hours of issuance. Red Flag criteria occurs whenever a geographical area has been in a dry spell for a week or two, or for a shorter period, if before spring green-up or after fall color, and the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) is high to extreme and the following forecast weather parameters are forecasted to be met: 1. A sustained wind average 15 mph (24 km/h) or greater, 2. Relative humidity less than or equal to 25%, and 3. A temperature of greater than 75°F (24°C).”

Hopefully we have now done our part to educate the community.

If you would like to be informed when the next such alert is issued, you can sign up for text alerts at www.morrisdailyherald.com.

Then, when it is issued, please keep the matches in your pocket.

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