New Alert System Sends Blizzard Warning

LANE COUNTY, Ore. — A lot of us heard about that blizzard warning thanks to an alert on our cell phones.

That’s because a new wireless emergency alert system just started up this summer.

Not only did a message of a blizzard warning show up, but your phone probably started buzzing and vibrating.

The alert program rolled out in June and is a partnership between FEMA, the FCC and the cell phone companies. The National Weather Service then uses it to let people know about weather warnings.

The reason why some of us in Lane County are seeing it for the first time is because weather hasn’t been severe enough to send out an alert. Even though this blizzard warning was just for the Cascades, anyone with cell service in Lane County could have received it.

“So they take this and say, ‘Oh, this is a blizzard warning for the Oregon Cascades. I got to georeference this to my cell towers in Lane County, and it’s limited to 90 characters so maybe that messaging needs to be a little worked on,” said Tyree Wilde, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The hope is to refine the program down to alert cell towers in more specific areas or allow more characters in a message to make the wording more clear.

Only newer phones have this system, but the National Weather Service says the goal is to have all phones enabled by 2014.

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