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AccuWeather's free COVID-19 warning service extended to new states as severe weather looms

Mark Puleo
Jeremy Bixler, facilities director for Stride Community Health, checks the paperwork of a person before being directed to a drive-thru test site to check for the new coronavirus Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Aurora, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

AccuWeather is extending its donation of free severe weather and local storm-warning services to hospitals, medical institutions and public health agencies to new states that face a potentially life-threatening severe weather outbreak into this weekend. Nearly 30 million people, including nurses, doctors and health specialists, are included in the risk area.

In states throughout the central U.S., a variety of weather factors including gusty winds, intense hail and the threat for tornadoes could strike some of the country's most coronavirus-devastated areas, including Kansas City, Missouri, St. Louis, and Chicago.

In a press release from March 23, AccuWeather pledged its support in the fight against COVID-19 by offering its severe weather warnings for free to healthcare agencies in order to reduce the risk workers face. The company said the service will provide a specialized version of AccuWeather's SkyGuard warning service, including advanced warnings for the threat of lightning, wind gusts, flash flooding and tornadoes impacting temporary outdoor hospital sites.

That advanced protection against severe threats may prove vital this weekend as forecasters say isolated tornadoes are possible and straight-line wind gusts could reach an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 70 mph.

"With all the chaos hospitals are experiencing right now in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, AccuWeather wants to put our skills and expertise to good use to lessen the burden on already overtaxed healthcare workers," said Jonathan Porter, AccuWeather for Business vice president. "Since we announced the program last week, we've had many sign-ups, and we are very pleased to be able to contribute in this way to help save lives and prevent injuries, but over and above the free monitoring, we advise hospitals to think now about safety and contingency plans, especially those in the path of predicted severe weather."

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, the fast-moving storms could lead to flash flooding. Along with winds strong enough to knock over trees or break off large limbs, there may be a heightened risk of power outages.

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Storms are expected to erupt from northeastern Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, central Missouri and central Illinois on Friday, AccuWeather Lead Storm-Warning Meteorologist Brian Knopick said. Those states have seen a combined 3,484 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"The severe weather risk will not only continue on Saturday but could pose a significant threat to lives and property," Sosnowski said. "During Saturday, the severe weather threat may extend as far to the north as central Iowa and southern Wisconsin and as far to the south as northeastern Texas and northwestern Louisiana. Large metro areas of Chicago; St. Louis; Davenport, Iowa; and Little Rock, Arkansas; are among the areas at risk."

Outside of New York City and the Seattle metro area, Chicago has been one of the harder-hit cities in the country. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has taken extensive measures to enforce social distancing, such as closing the iconic lakefront and ordering many other commonly visited parks to close as well.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot attends a news conference where Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a shelter in place order to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on Friday that Chicago is among the places health experts are worried about becoming the nation's next hotspot.

"To help even more hospitals and medical facilities in the battle against COVID-19, AccuWeather is extending its offer to provide free severe weather monitoring services to the states of Illinois, Indiana and surrounding areas, which are expecting this latest round of severe weather," Porter said. "Last week, AccuWeather announced it would support hospitals, medical institutions and public health agencies fighting the pandemic in the hardest-hit states of California, Washington, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Medical facilities can register for the complimentary service at hospital.accuweather.com."

Triage tents set up outside of hospitals and health facilities have popped up in numerous states, allowing health specialist to increase screening procedures and help protect facilities from the surge of visitors.

In the press release, Jonathan Porter said it is vital for the company to do all it can to protect patients and the healthcare workers on the front lines.

"They are heroes, and they must be protected and kept safe, especially in this particularly vulnerable situation working in temporary structures, such as tents, that are susceptible to the elements," Porter said. "We are honored to be able to provide this warning service at no cost during this time of great need."

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