, Corbin, KY

CNHI Special Projects

May 20, 2013

More options, several ways to be alerted


By Jeff Noble / staff writer

Getting the word out about severe weather and other disasters has come a long way from the Cold War era of the 1950s and early 1960s.

The old CONELRAD system used on radio has evolved into the highly-advanced Emergency Alert System, which is used today in the Tri-County region and across the nation.

Technology has made quantum leaps forward in helping to get the word out about warnings. As a result, there are more options to use for that purpose.

Tony Edwards of the National Weather Service office in Jackson noted those options are used by them every day, and are available for southeastern Kentucky.

“Weather information on your smart phone or web device? There’s an ‘app’ for that. We have a mobile application, or ‘app’ that can be used for smart phones and web-enabled devices, like your computer, an iPad, or an iPod. You can add it to your home screen, or bookmark your cell phone’s browser, and you’ll have weather on the go,” he said.

Edwards added those interested in learning more about the app can go to for more information.

Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA’s, are another way to reach more people when they’re in harm’s way. It was rolled out almost a year ago by the Weather Service, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Administration) the Federal Communications Commission and the wireless phone industry as a way to carry certain Weather Service warnings — including tornado warnings and flash flood warnings — to cell phones if their customers want the warnings.

Unlike last year’s deadly tornado in East Bernstadt, this spring severe weather season’s been pretty quiet as of Friday. But Edwards said they’ve already had some feedback on WEA’s use.

“We haven’t have a lot of opportunities to use it so far this spring, but we had a guy in Ferguson, over in Pulaski County, who said he got the tornado warning we sent out back on Sunday, March 24th on his cell phone. The phone woke him up, it read the tornado warning to him, and he got up and took cover. We had two minutes warning on that tornado, and moments after he got the warning, the tornado went past his house. We’ve also had some people in the area who were alerted to flash flood warnings by WEA,” he pointed out.

Warnings given out by WEA include warnings for tornadoes, flash flood, blizzards, ice storms and extreme wind. So far, severe thunderstorm warnings are not on the WEA list.

To see if your phone or mobile device can receive the warnings, visit, or contact your wireless carrier.

Edwards mentioned one big advantage with the wireless emergency options — they’re really good to use if you’re traveling.

“Let’s say you’re traveling to Florida, or the Gulf Coast, or, for an example, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma. You get a tornado warning for Oklahoma County, which Oklahoma City is in. You’re on the Interstate going towards that county and you may have music on a CD playing. But if you have the wireless device capability on your phone or device, it will go off, alerting you,” he explained.

In years past, Weather Service warnings were what was called “county-based,” which gave the weather threat and the county or counties under that threat. Edwards said they’re now “storm-based,” which zeroes in more specifically on the area that’s under the gun for severe weather.

“With a ‘storm-based’ warning, you get the warning, say a tornado warning for the city of Corbin, southern Laurel County, western Knox County and northern Whitley County until 5:30 p.m. You get where it’s been spotted, what it’s doing, where it’s going, what communities are affected, and what to do to take action. It’s more specific,” he said.

And just last month, the Weather Service office in Jackson is using what’s called “Impact Based Warnings,” for southeastern and eastern Kentucky. While the basic function of tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings remain the same, addition enhanced information is provided within the warning and the expected impact on the areas affected.

“They really key on the significant weather event. This allows us not to forecast the intensity of a tornado, but the potential damage of that tornado,” said Edwards.

The program is experimental, and is being used in much of the country between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains, including the Tri-County region. It’s done in response to key findings from recent service assessments of tornadoes in 2011, including the EF-5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri on May 22 of that year. That tornado killed at least 158 people, injured around 1,100, and caused up to $2.8 billion in damages.

“In states where they’ve had significant weather events, like Missouri and Kansas, state and county emergency managers and the media really liked it, because they could better gauge the potential impacts and warn people. We’ve had no response to the impact-based warnings in our region, because we haven’t had any significant weather events so far this season,” Edwards stated.

He added NOAA Weather Radio still uses “county-based” warnings. “There’s been some talk of improving that, but that’s way down the food chain. We don’t have a lot of funding available.”

The National Weather Service is a part of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The technology has improved, and the options have increased to warn the public and to get feedback. Edwards mentioned the use of social media, including a Facebook page for their office, and doing weather programs for civic groups and organizations, including senior citizens, as ways to keep connected with the people they serve.

As Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the Jackson Weather Service office, Edwards works with local and regional emergency management personnel and first-responders. He gave high marks to those in the Tri-County area for not only being there when it counts, but being able to prepare for the next time disastrous weather comes through.

“Both Knox County and Whitley County personnel are top-notch in their work and preparation. And Laurel County’s in that ‘Tornado Alley’ area of southern and southeastern Kentucky we cover and they’re used to reacting quickly. Their personnel are excellent with what they do,” he said.

Text Only
CNHI Special Projects
  • Is Kentucky all shook up?

    Shortly after noon on Saturday, Nov. 10, the ground shook all over the Tri-County region.

    May 29, 2013

  • Preparing for mid-America earthquake

    It’s a bleak scenario. A massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault kills or injures 60,000 people in Tennessee.

    May 29, 2013

  • Norman-Tornado16.jpg Audio: How can we better prepare for tornadoes?

    An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.

    May 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • Norman-Tornado08.jpg Photos: Aftermath of massive tornado in Moore Storm victims were pulled from the rubble and residents began surveying the damage late Monday and early Tuesday in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, where a powerful tornado destroyed entire neighborhoods and left dozens dead.

    May 21, 2013

  • More options, several ways to be alerted

    Getting the word out about severe weather and other disasters has come a long way from the Cold War era of the 1950s and early 1960s.

    May 20, 2013

  • Technology speeds disaster alerts, response

    Caitria O’Neill remembers her reaction to hearing tornado warnings on June 1, 2011. She went to the grocery store, she said, “because I live in Massachusetts, and we don’t get tornadoes.”

    May 20, 2013

  • MainStory5.IndyQuakeDrill.jpg The Big One: Preparing for mid-America earthquake

    It’s a bleak scenario. A massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault kills or injures 60,000 people in Tennessee. A quarter of a million people are homeless.

    May 19, 2013 3 Photos 3 Stories

  • screenshot salmon.jpg VIDEO: How sequestration could affect US flood warning system

    Oregon and Idaho each had to shut down three water gauges due to automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration. Watch how Idaho relies on these water gauges, from tracking drought conditions to determining stream levels for salmon.

    May 15, 2013 1 Photo

  • Preparation now is priceless, when seconds count later

    For most of us, we don’t think about disaster preparation until after it strikes. We read, see and hear the vivid images of destruction and suffering that plays in print, online, on TV and on radio. Those moments can stay seared in our minds for days or forever.

    May 13, 2013

  • Veterans of tornadoes balance preparedness and practicality

    Few things in nature are less predictable than a tornado. They can form quickly. They strike weirdly, leveling one building while leaving its neighbor untouched. They can fling a car a half-mile and turn a piece of lumber into a wall-piercing missile.

    May 13, 2013

Front page
NDN Video
CDC Director Warns Of A World Where Antibiotics No Longer Work Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB'
AP Video
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter