Some good news coming from the FCC, National Weather Services, cell phone carriers, and others.
New WEA's are coming out. WEA is short for Wireless Emergency Alert, a new feature that will alert you when severe weather is around.
We already have plenty of applications out there for severe weather alerts. In fact, I have WeatherBug on my Blackberry and every time there's an advisory, watch, or warning posted for my location, a red exclamation point will pop up on the WeatherBug icon. If I click on it, the application takes me to the "alerts" page where I can then read the text from the National Weather Service.
These WEA's will work a little differently though. You don't have to sign up for them, they are free, and they only go off for certain severe weather alerts:
I'm not sure if these will include Severe Thunderstorm Warnings, or Tornado Watches though. Severe thunderstorm warnings are issued when hail is expected to be 1" or greater along with 58 mph winds or stronger. In my opinion that would count for extreme winds. So what will happen is when these warnings are issued in your area, it will go to your phone and you'll get a message. It shouldn't cost you anything and it is based on where you are at the time, not necessarily where you live, work, or hang out most of the time. The message will go out to phones in the zones of danger.
The message is expected to be short, up to about 90 characters with simple messages of where and when storms are expected, along with a quick safety message such as 'seek shelter immediately.'
I love this idea for a couple of reasons. Chief Meteorologist Kerrin Jeromin and I conducted a survey in February 2012 asking people how they get their weather information, or where they turn to when severe weather hits. The most common answer was shared between 'local news' and 'Internet/smart phone.' So a lot of people are getting their weather updates and alerts on their smart phone or logging on the Internet. With today's 'go-go' society I think these WEA's are a perfect fit for the public. Secondly, our survey also asked, 'Do you know the difference between a severe thunderstorm warning and a severe thunderstorm watch?' and 'Do you know the difference between a tornado warning and a tornado watch?' A majority of people answered yes to these questions, but a majority of people had a wrong idea of what these warnings/watches mean. I think this may educate the public a little more on what it means when a tornado watch and a tornado warning is out.
Who will get these alerts? Well I think most everybody because the following carriers have agreed to use the WEA's:
According to USA today these carriers cover 97% of the public. Getting the weather information out is important, now we have one more platform! Stay safe this summer season,
-Meteorologist Steve Glazier