Government-Issued Severe Weather Warning Texts

By: Carrie Cline Email
By: Carrie Cline Email

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- "Text alert, take cover, dangerous weather is coming" -- those are the messages that could soon hit your cell phone.

It's all a part of a new government plan to make sure you know what kind of dangerous weather is coming, where and when.

March 2, 2012 -- it was a day that will forever change how our region perceives the threat of tornadoes. Now, not a moment too soon, when dark clouds start to move in overhead, there's no more worry about if or when the worst will hit, a text alert will notify you.

“FEMA is the agency administering the program, the National Weather Service is providing our weather information,” Jamie Bielinski said.

Bielinski is the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service office in Charleston. The new federal plan will issue a text alert for weather warnings to every cell phone user who has text messaging capabilities. You don't have to sign up, and it's free.

WSAZ Chief Meteorologist Tony Cavalier says the wording on the text alerts could be strong -- a concern that could prove harmful in the long run.

“Three out of four warnings do not produce a tornado and what's happened -- not just in Appalachia -- but even in the heart of tornado alley, is that folks have come to recognize a cry wolf syndrome," Cavalier said. "You said tornado; there was no tornado."

And having a plan when that warning hits will make all the difference.

“Personally, if I get a text, I immediately tune to radar ... look at the sky and see if there's imminent danger,” Cavalier said.

The weather alerts will be geographically generated. That means if someone lives in Huntington but is visiting family in the Midwest when a tornado warning is issued there, he or she will receive that warning.

All major cell phone carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, have signed on to the program.

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