You ask on Facebook and Twitter.
And if you’re me, you start poking around, looking for an explanation.
It seems that the where-the-heck-did-that-come-from alerts are provider-specific: there are reports from iPhone customers on Verizon and T-Mobile but no reports (yet) on AT&T. I have AT&T service but have not received an alert that I had not knowingly signed up for.
At least one customer (screen capture to the right) says he has “weather widget alerts” enabled on his device. He says it’s “from the Weather Channel (weather.com) Powered by Yahoo.”
Another Verizon customer, Ricardo Rabago, reports that his Verizon smartphone also sent him an alert from NWS at 2:06 pm — no weather app involved.
Daigoro Toyama has Fancy Widgets running on Android 4.1.2/Samsung Galaxy Nexus with T-Mobile. He, too, got the alert without context.
Another reported that she has amber and government emergency alerts enabled on her phone but not Yahoo weather alerts.
Dear Federal Government: Weather alerts need to contain geo-specific information.
Clearly some UX/communication folks need to be involved.
This seemingly-but-not-actually-official advisory tweet, for example, is for an alert that is limited to “East Slopes of the Washington Cascades” — but you won’t know that until you read the link which does go to an official site.
According to another Seattle-metro-area Facebook poster, this not-free-but-not-expensive-either weather app from the iTunes store provided her with the details she needed.
Weather Alert USA, an iPhone App
I just bought it — Weather Alert USA — and accepted the default push settings (as an experiment) for Lynnwood.
There is a winter storm warning (hot pink) and all the details needed to know not to panic. However, this app is not displaying the updated NOAA/NWS report which substituted a blizzard warning for the winter storm warning at 2:05 pm. That warning is at the bottom of this post.
After I added “Seattle WA” (downtown) as a location, then the app showed the blizzard warning which is for the “West Slopes of the Central Cascades and Passes.”
One thing that the app is sorely missing: a link to the actual NOAA content so that you can explore alerts in related areas.
Had I not added Seattle, I would not see alerts about Snoqualmie Pass, for example, although that’s the way I’m probably going to drive (not Stevens) should I cross the Cascades in the winter. [So I've now added Tacoma, too, so I get Pierce County.]
Details on tonight’s storm
But it’s for the Cascades, and not just on the west side. It includes the eastern slope of the Cascades and higher elevations on the peninsula.
URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA 205 PM PST SUN DEC 16 2012 WAZ519-170615- /O.CAN.KSEW.WS.W.0023.121217T0200Z-121218T0200Z/ /O.NEW.KSEW.BZ.W.0001.121217T0200Z-121218T0200Z/ WEST SLOPES CENTRAL CASCADES AND PASSES- 205 PM PST SUN DEC 16 2012 ...BLIZZARD WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM THIS EVENING TO 6 PM PST MONDAY... ...WINTER STORM WARNING IS CANCELLED... THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN SEATTLE HAS ISSUED A BLIZZARD WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM THIS EVENING TO 6 PM PST MONDAY. THE WINTER STORM WARNING HAS BEEN CANCELLED. * SOME AFFECTED LOCATIONS...SNOQUALMIE PASS...STEVENS PASS...WHITE PASS...AND PARADISE. * TIMING...STEADY SNOW WILL DEVELOP DURING THE DAY TODAY AND THEN BECOME HEAVY AT TIMES TONIGHT AND MONDAY. THE SNOW WILL TAPER OFF TO SHOWERS MONDAY EVENING. WIND WILL RAPIDLY INCREASE AFTER ABOUT 4 AM. WHITEOUT CONDITIONS WITH SIGNIFICANT BLOWING AND DRIFTING OF SNOW CAN BE EXPECTED 4 AM LATE TONIGHT THROUGH MONDAY AFTERNOON. * WIND...30 TO 40 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 60 MPH IN THE PASSES. GUSTS 70 TO 90 MPH ON EXPOSED RIDGES. * VISIBILITY...VISIBILITY WILL FALL TO NEAR ZERO AROUND 4 AM AND STAY BELOW 1/4 MILE IN SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW THROUGH MUCH OF MONDAY AFTERNOON. * SNOW ACCUMULATIONS...1 TO 3 FEET OF SNOW IS LIKELY BY MONDAY EVENING. THERE WILL BE SIGNIFICANT DRIFTING OF THE SNOW. * SNOW LEVEL...RISING TO 2500 FEET TONIGHT THEN FALLING TO 1500 FEET MONDAY AFTERNOON. * MAIN IMPACT...WHITEOUT CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED DUE TO HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS LATE TONIGHT THROUGH MONDAY IN THE PASSES. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A BLIZZARD WARNING MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. FALLING AND BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS AND POOR VISIBILITIES ARE LIKELY. THIS WILL LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS...MAKING TRAVEL EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRAVEL. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL...HAVE A WINTER SURVIVAL KIT WITH YOU. IF YOU GET STRANDED...STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE. THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS SITUATION. CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WILL CREATE WHITEOUT CONDITIONS AND MAKE ROADWAYS IMPASSABLE. IF YOU BECOME STRANDED...THE SITUATION COULD BECOME LIFE THREATENING. && $$