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Weather Goes Local in N.O.

The 2006 hurricane season starts June 1. So will a new all-local, all-the-time weather forecasting service on Cox Communications Inc. systems serving the New Orleans area.

Cox on that date will add an around-the-clock Weatherscan service with conditions for southern Louisiana region on channel 107 of its Digital Essentials tier of programming.

“The events of 2005 made it very clear just how valuable real-time information on local weather events can be, especially during the hurricane season,” said Ellen Lloyd, vice president of marketing at Cox Communications Inc., said in a statement.

Hurricane Katrina, which hit last Aug. 29, displaced hundreds of thousands of residents and caused more than $100 billion in damages, according to an estimate from Risk Management Solutions, a California firm that quantifies the effects of catastrophes.

The Weatherscan service can be used as an emergency alert channel. Regular forecasts, radar reports and satellite images can be supplemented by information detailing road closures, evacuation routes, shelter locations and other emergency data and updates, according to Weatherscan director Brad Grant.

Four product administrators at The Weather Channel Cos. headquarters in Atlanta will reach out to emergency managers in New Orleans, when a hurricane or other catastrophic weather event is heading toward the city, to track such details and deliver them to the screen.

Before a hurricane hits, weather information for various normal “lifestyles,” such as outdoor enthusiasts, will be suspended in favor of more frequent reports of current weather conditions.

Grant said that normal radar scans, which typically frame 75- to 100-mile wide areas, will be pulled back to 500- or even 1,000-mile views when a hurricane is impending. The wider scans, he said, will let viewers see the path and intensity of a storm.

Weatherscan services, which feature continuous Doppler radar screens, local-condition readings and a “weather window” for forecasts and rotating features, are now available to about 23 million households. Other operators that have signed up include Comcast Corp., Insight Communications, Cable One, Blue Ridge Cable and members of the National Cable Television Cooperative.