National Weather Service proposes new wireless alerts for most intense thunderstorms

LOS ANGELES -- On Tuesday, the National Weather Service proposed a new wireless system — one that has been in the works since 2012 — for informing the public about the most extreme thunderstorms.

The June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest Derecho was one of the most destructive thunderstorm complexes in U.S history.

“In just a matter of hours, it was just tremendous power outages throughout the entire area,” Mike Gerber, with the National Weather Service, shared. “People were out of power for about a week or so, and it was a massive heatwave. That’s what inspired National Weather Service to take action and activate WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) for highest impact severe thunderstorms.”

According to a public announcement issued by NWS, the new product will provide advance notice of damaging wind gusts, large hail and tornadoes that pose a threat to life and property.

While Wireless Emergency Alerts are not a new thing, now they will indicate intensity for thunderstorms — alerting the public when a storm is getting dangerous.

Notices are issued where there is a radar or satellite indication of specific wind and/or hail criteria with either “Considerable” or “Destructive” categories.

Reports must indicate wind gusts of a minimum of 58 mph or greater and/or hail of quarter-size or greater. If winds exist of at least 80 mph and/or baseball-size hail occurs, this will trigger a high-pitched tone on your phone.

“We wouldn’t want to active WEA for every thunderstorm warning, because there are a lot of severe thunderstorm warnings that go out. There are certain ones where the damage is really going to be destructive, and I know that’s what we’re focusing on with this new initiative,” Gerber said.

This new proposed system aims to convey urgency to the public for the most severe storms.

NWS says that feedback is encouraged, which can be submitted in an online survey through July 30.