Millions of smartphone users will soon begin receiving text messages about severe weather from a government system that can send a blanket warning to mobile devices in the path of a dangerous storm. The National Weather Service's new Wireless Emergency Alerts system offers a new way to warn Americans about menacing weather, even if they are nowhere near a television, radio, or storm sirens.
Beginning today, the system will notify people about approaching tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, and other threats. When a warning is issued for a specific county, a short message will cause late-model smartphones in that area to sound a special tone and vibrate. Users do not have to sign up for the service or pay for the text message, and people who prefer not to get the warnings can opt out of the system. All the big carriers have signed on.