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Weather Prepares Affils, Advertisers for Irene

Bad storms can be good business for The Weather Channel.

As it gears up coverage of Hurricane Irene, it's expecting spikes in TV viewership and web traffic. During storms, it tends to run fewer commercial breaks, according to a spokeswoman, even going commercial free during landfalls. But it sells "Severe Weather Packages" to advertisers who pay premium prices to reach big audiences at a time when their products and service will be top of mind.

Some advertisers buy packages that air before a storm hits, when consumers are getting prepared. Others are more interested in reaching viewers afterwards, when people are cleaning up and rebuilding. Some severe weather clients on Weather Channel include insurance companies like State Farm, generator companies like Generac, clean-up services such as ServPro, home improvement retailers like Home Depot and OnStar.

After landfall, Weather Channel also gets paid advertising from agencies such as the American Red Cross and FEMA to solicit support and communicate their services, according to a network spokesperson.

Naturally, covering major storms is more expensive than normal forecasting, but a certain number of weather events are built into the network's plan for any given year.

On Wednesday, the Weather Channel also told its affiliates that it is offering them ways to keep their subscribers informed about the progress of Hurricane Irene.

Subscribers can sign up for free server weather alerts, hourly updates and evacuation routes via email or text messages that are customized for local areas.

Weather Channel, working with FEMA and the American Humane Association, has also prepared a campaign of safety and preparedness tips that it says provides life-saving information and resources for subscribers.  The tops can also be posted on the cable operators own web pages.

"At the Weather Channel, the safety of our mutual customers is at the core of our mission," the network said in its note to affiliates.