National Weather Service to send weather warnings as text alerts

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The National Weather Service will soon send weather warnings directly to cellphone users when severe weather happens.

The National Weather Service has teamed up with cellphone carriers to send emergency alerts via text messages. The Wireless Emergency Alerts Service begins in June.

WISC-TV and Channel 3000 currently offer severe weather text alerts, which people can sign up for by clicking here.

The Wireless Emergency Alerts Service text alerts will warn people about severe weather such as tornadoes, flash floods and blizzards.

In extremely dangerous situations, such as a tornado, the alert will also contain advice urging people to take shelter immediately.

“Nearly everybody has some type of cellphone or electronic device, so it’s a way of reaching out and getting the warning information out. The bottom line is we want to have multiple ways for the user to receive warning information,” says Rusty Kapela, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service near Sullivan.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service are constantly watching for severe weather that may pose a threat.

“You’ll get the warning message and you’ll have about 12-14 minutes of lead time,” Kapela said. “Basically, every second counts.”

Rock County Emergency Management Coordinator Shirley Connors said in the past few years, Rock County has seen several major weather events.

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“In 2008, we had numerous things. We had the ice blizzard. We had the snow storm and we had the flooding,” Connors said.

Connors said giving families a few extra minutes could save lives.

“We are a mobile society and a lot of people, the majority, have cellphones, and I think this will be a wonderful, valuable feature to have,” Connors said.

Kapela said the messages will be about 90 characters long and will have a different sound than a typical text message indicator. The messages will be specific to a person’s location.

Anyone with a cellphone capable of receiving text messages will automatically be signed up for the alerts.

Kapela said the government will all so use the system to send out Amber Alerts and messages from the Department of Homeland Security, but people will be able to opt out of some of the messages by talking with their cellphone provider.

For more information, people can visit the National Weather Service’s website