Feds launch Web sites to help drought victims

Commerce Department Secretary William Daley on Wednesday launched two Internet-based tools to help inform Americans who are suffering through the heat and drought.

Starting this week, the department will post on the Internet (at www.drought.noaa.gov) weekly assessments of potential heat threats and extreme weather conditions, as well as the status of the drought that is gripping parts of the country.

The threats assessment tool presents data about weather-related threats such as heat, precipitation, wind and wildfire. "The new threats assessment maps will allow all of us to take precautionary steps to lessen the impacts of extreme heat," Daley said. Previously, these assessments were available only on a local basis.

In addition, Commerce, in cooperation with the Agriculture Department and the National Drought Mitigation Center, launched a new drought monitoring and forecast service. It maps the status of droughts nationwide and forecasts whether they will strengthen or weaken using information from numerous sources, including Commerce and the departments of Agriculture and Interior. This service had only been available in experimental form until now.

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