NWS emergency alerts rolling out to far more smartphones this spring

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 7:03 PM

HALTOM CITY -- Water rose up and grabbed trailers like a snake one summer night back in 2007. Flash flooding swept away homes and people in two Haltom City Mobile home parks.

"It was about right there and it got washed down the street,” Rickey Wiseman said, pointing to where a trailer once stood. “It stopped down there. People still inside the home, really scared. Thought they were going to get drowned."

We talked to Rickey Wiseman back then, standing on his porch not far from where the current tore a 4-year-old girl from her mother's arms.

"She got drowned. Bless her heart," he recalled Thursday afternoon. There are only empty lots now where neighbors used to live.

The National Weather Service (NWS) averages 45 minutes warning for flash floods. In last year’s tornadoes in Granbury, the NWS gave 24 minutes warning.

It's plenty of time, if you get the warning. Now, almost everyone with a smartphone will.

"It's a very big deal because it's a lot easier to get the warnings out to everybody," said meteorologist Mark Fox with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. He said the NWS has been texting warnings for more than a year.

But not all phone companies received them. This storm season, Fox said 90 percent of smartphones will get the alerts.

"So the first time you're in a tornado warning this year, your smartphone is going to make some funny noises and start beeping at you, and you're going to wonder what that is," he said.

Fox said it's only for flash floods and tornadoes, so your phone won't buzz for every severe storm. And the texts should go only to people close to the threat, so he said there's no reason to disable it.

"It's not just you it's going to be affecting,” he said. “So if you've got your phone on mute for church service, everybody's phone is going to go off."

Fox said Dallas County averages five tornado warnings a year.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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