Staying on Top of Severe Weather Warnings

On Broadside, with Jim Braude, we examined a letter to the editor from a Boston Globe reader who was unhappy with the warning system - or, in her estimation, lack thereof - associated with tornado warnings in New England. The concern expressed by the reader included a lack of tornado sirens, and antiquated, difficult-to-understand warning systems by mass media.

From an NECN standpoint, there wasn't much more we as a Weather Team could do - we singled out the storm heading for Westfield, MA, some 24 minutes prior to the first tornado touchdown, which is about as far out as tornado warning can come. That said, an official, government-issued Tornado Warning was not disseminated until 13 minutes after the first tornado touchdown, which is what Jim refers to here.

I prefer to stick to our own team's dissemination of information, of course, but think my larger role on this topic is to facilitate discussion on how we, as individuals, can take personal responsibility for making sure ourselves and our families are always updated immediately in times of life and property threatening disaster.

  1. A NOAA Weather Radio: Available in most department stores and at Radio Shack, a NOAA Weather Radio receives special frequencies that broadcast weather information, 24 hours a day. In the last decade, these radios have evolved to include SAME messaging technology - the ability to program your radio to only alert you to specific events precise to your location. In other words, you can program this radio to stay silent at all times, except when a dangerous circumstance arises for your location.
  2. Smartphones: There is a plethora of weather applications available for Smartphones that can alert you to impending weather. Of course, if you search "NECN" in your app store, you'll find our mobile app, which provides updated radar, alerts and forecasts, but WILL NOT tone an alarm if dangerous weather threatens. For that type of application, I'd recommend either "Wx Alert USA" or "WeatherRadio". Of course, you'll have to play with the settings to ensure the phone will still alert you at night or in silent mode, and you must make sure your phone is either turned on, or Wifi is on. The application I was demonstrating on-air, broadcasting the NOAA Weather Radio, is called WunderRadio.
  3. Email alert websites: An internet search will find you several sites - some free, some for pay - that can email you alerts as soon as they are issued. Personally, I use
  4. On-air Broadcasts: One understandable complaint is the relatively antiquated method of the Emergency Alert System broadcasts on mass media. While I was giving street-by-street tracking of the tornado, our programming was pre-empted by the infamous blue EAS screen with a garbled and rather vague warning. Clearly, this offered less information than you could have gathered from our broadcasts. This is one area we must examine as an industry, but the preceding two methods will effectively allow you to still receive critical warnings, anywhere, anytime.
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