Before you step out for a mountain hike or launch your canoe on a nearby lake, you may want to enter cyberspace to check the weather forecast for your specific destination.
The National Weather Service station at the Medford airport now has a recreation-forecast Web page that provides weather reports for nearly 200 recreation sites on an interactive, user-friendly map.
The website — weather.gov/medford/rec — contains forecasts for such diverse sites as Britt Gardens in Jacksonville, Mount Ashland, the park at Dodge Bridge on the Upper Rogue River and campgrounds near the coast. And as any outdoors enthusiast knows, the weather at any given time can vary dramatically between those spots.
The recreation forecast page is designed to provide quick access to weather forecasts, watches, warnings and advisories for recreation areas and mountain passes in southwest Oregon and northwest California, explained forecaster Noel "Shad" Keene.
"The website is fully functional at this time," he said. "From here on, we'll always be looking for ways to improve the site.
"Our goal is to highlight weather conditions so people can plan for that," he said. "There have been a few efforts to provide for tailored forecasts for recreation but none as comprehensive as this page."
The agency encourages feedback from the public, including additional locations people would like to see added, he said.
Keene led a team effort that included fellow weather specialists Sven Nelaimischkies, Connie Clarstrom and Michael Stavish in a year-long effort to create the website. It went online earlier this year.
The idea originated with John Lovegrove, the meteorologist in charge of the station, Keene said.
"Since we have all kinds of recreational activity in our forecast area and varied weather conditions, he thought it would be good to have a page that highlights the weather for the recreational sites," Keene said.
The station's forecast area reaches from Douglas County south to Siskiyou and Modoc counties in Northern California, and from Lake County west to the coast.
Because of several factors, including the complex terrain, the weather can change dramatically from one area to another within the same region, he noted.
In addition to the public, land management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are expected to benefit from the site, he said. The agencies have worked with the NWS to provide information about recreational sites for the website, he added.
"As they provide us with more well known sites that are heavily used, we will take that data and include as many as we can in the forecasts," Keene said.
In addition to the weather forecasts, the website contains links to agency websites for easy access to reservation instructions, driving directions and similar information. Detailed mountain pass forecasts and links to pass webcams are also available.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.