Effective on August 4, 2011, the National Weather Service office in Lake Charles, Louisiana, will reconfigure the current fire and public zones for Jasper and Newton counties in southeast Texas. This reconfiguration will provide better forecast services by breaking up the counties into separate northern and southern fire and public zones due to the large meteorological, climatological, and geographical differences from north to south.

Jasper (TXZ181) and Newton (TXZ182) counties in southeast Texas are geographically elongated zones with a north to south extent of up to 70 miles, but an average east to west extent of only 10 miles. This leads to significant meteorological and climatological differences between northern and southern portions of these counties. For example, southern sections of these counties receive a strong marine climate influence, being as close as 30 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. Northern sections of these counties are under a more continental climate influence, and are as far as 100 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of the population resides in the northern half of these counties, with far fewer residents in the southern half.
This proposal would split each county into northern and southern zones by extending the southern border of Tyler County (TXZ180) due eastward to the Louisiana border. The proposed zone configuration would greatly reduce confusion that arises in hazardous weather products, such as inland tropical cyclone, fire weather, and winter weather hazards. For example, when winter weather advisories, watches, and warnings are issued they encompass the entire length of these counties, even when winter weather is forecast to only impact the northern portions. Confusion often results in southern Jasper and southern Newton counties, who think they will be impacted by winter weather as well.  The proposed zone configuration would reduce this type of confusion among the public, as well as assist media partners in better describing the location and impacts of the hazardous weather. Emergency management would also see increased clarity in hazardous weather products, resulting in improved decision support services.
In addition, splitting each of these counties into two separate zones would yield a cleaner visual appearance and improved watch/warning continuity with surrounding counties/parishes on the internet and television.

Original Jasper/Newton Zones
Figure 1: The current/original fire and public zones for Jasper and Newton counties

Proposed Jasper/Newton Zones
Figure 2: The proposed fire and public zone configuration, which will split Jasper and Newton counties into four separate zones - Northern Jasper (TXZ259), Southern Jasper (TXZ261), Northern Newton (TXZ260), Southern Newton (TXZ262)

The following products will be affected by the zone changes, which are effective August 4, 2011:

Air Quality Alert Message AEUS74 KLCH AQALCH
Fire Weather Forecast FNUS54 KLCH FWFLCH
Fire Weather Message WWUS84 KLCH RFWLCH
Hazardous Weather Outlook FLUS44 KLCH HWOLCH
Hurricane Local Statement WTUS84 KLCH HLSLCH
Public Information Statement NOUS44 KLCH PNSLCH
Short Term Forecast FPUS74 KLCH NOWLCH
Special Weather Statement WWUS84 KLCH SPSLCH
Weather Message WWUS74 KLCH NPWLCH
Winter Weather Message WWUS44 KLCH WSWLCH
Zone Forecast Product FPUS54 KLCH ZFPLCH


USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.