Nat'l Weather Service to launch severe weather alerts via phones - Dallas News |

Nat'l Weather Service to launch severe weather alerts via phones

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Every spring, severe storms blow across North Texas, spinning off tornadoes and putting lives at risk.

Now, new severe weather alerts may soon be coming to your smartphone, and you don't have to do anything to receive them.

The alerts will pop up on phones much like AMBER Alerts already do, only for severe events and mainly to those who are in the storm's path.

For those who have been in storms' paths before, this is welcome news.

It will be two years in April since a tornado ripped through Arlington and took most of Tamara McNiel's home with it.

"We didn't think it was gonna hit the house, so I think every early warning we can get would be beneficial," she said.

Now, weather like that will prompt an alert right to smartphones.

"It'll make a special chime, one that you don't think is on your smartphone, and it'll vibrate twice," said Mark Fox with the National Weather Service.

You don't have to sign up for it -- it automatically appears. You can, however, opt out of the emergency alerts. Weather experts hope you don't, though.

"If you are traveling from here, going through Kansas or somewhere else, you hit a tornado warning there, you may not be following the weather there, but that alert's gonna find your cell phone…not necessarily just you," said Fox.

Christine Dillard rushed to her basement when the tornado passed over her Arlington home.

Her garage was torn apart by the high winds.

"It took a pretty good hit; the cars in there were sort of damaged too," said Dillard.

She and other homeowners in her community have since rebuilt their homes.

Dillard says early warnings are everything.

"We hear the sirens, but they go off all the time and that doesn't necessarily mean that's in our vicinity here -- it's around us somewhere and we don't know to pay attention," she said.

The alert system will be targeted to only those near or within the severe weather area.

The technology has been in place a while, but the National Weather Service has only recently gotten all of the major cell phone carriers on board.

"Most of the alerts are geared for hurricanes, extreme winds, dust storms, blizzards and things like that but around here the things we're mostly going to be getting are tornado warnings and flash flood warnings," said Fox.

The alerts are not available on all smartphones -- only those that are WEA accessible.

It differs from carrier to carrier, and that's who you should call if you're wondering if your phone will receive the alerts.

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