When Your Phone Warns You About The Weather ….

weather alert
…. and it seems too weird to be true. What do you do?

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.

Weather warning
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.]

weather alert usaweather alert

weather alert usa demo

Details on tonight’s storm

Yes, there is a blizzard advisory in Washington State tonight.

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.

NOAA

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.

&&

$$

Author: Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, writer, teacher. Webmaster at King County Elections; educator at UW. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill, gplus.to/kegill, http://wiredpen.com

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