Friday, August 19, 2011

Keeping an eye on Mid-South storms with StormWatch and StormWatch+


On August 14, re-branded and expanded it's severe weather alerting services under the name "StormWatch." Previously, visitors could sign up for e-mail weather alerts for seven Memphis-area counties (Shelby, Fayette, and Tipton in TN; Crittenden, AR; and DeSoto, Marshall, and Tunica in MS), as well as receive severe weather alerts on Twitter for Shelby County only (@shelbyalerts).

With the official release of StormWatch, one additional county has been added to the coverage area ( Tate County, MS) with e-mail alerts available, and Twitter feeds have been set up for all eight metro counties - @fayettealerts, @tiptonalerts, @desotoalerts, @marshallalerts, @tunicaalerts, @tatealerts, and @crittendenalert (no trailing 's'), in addition to @shelbyalerts. This expansion now allows any of the over 1.25 million residents of the Memphis metro area to receive e-mail or Twitter alerts when severe weather arrives. See map below of the StormWatch coverage area.

StormWatch coverage area - eight Memphis metro counties

StormWatch+ is a unique service that sends alerts to smartphone users whenever severe weather threatens their specific location. Combining storm-based warnings issued by the National Weather Service (referred to as polygons) and a user’s precise location, alerts are sent only if the location registered is directly threatened, not if the storm is 20 miles away or on the other side of the county.

In 2007, the National Weather Service began issuing Tornado, Severe Thunderstorm, and Flash Flood Warnings as storm-based warning polygons (see images below), alerting only the areas in the path of the storm rather than entire counties. However, for various reasons, and in almost all cases, outdoor warning sirens still sound over the entire county even if the storm is only tracking only a small portion of that county. This overwarns the public and increases the perceived false alarm rate, thereby reducing the siren's effectiveness. It creates a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" scenario. StormWatch+ keeps residents from becoming siren-weary by only warning those directly in the path of the storm. If sirens are going off, but the StormWatch+ user did not receive an alert for their location, that person is likely not in harm's way.

StormWatch+ will be released as an in-app purchasable upgrade for those with the MWN app for iPhone by the end of the month! The technology will then be added to the MWN Android app (likely in September). For less than the cost of a combo meal at your favorite fast food restaurant, you can have peace of mind for an entire year!

Features of StormWatch+:
  • Push notifications in the event of: 
    • Tornado Watches and Warnings 
    • Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Warnings 
    • Flash Flood Watches and Warnings 
    • Winter Storm Watches, Warnings, and Advisories 
  • Notifications sent even if app is not running and device is not in use 
  • Audio AND voice alert when watches/warnings are received 
  • Auto-updating list of active alerts, which “roll off” when expired or canceled 
  • Registration of up to two locations anywhere in the U.S., which can be changed at any time and can be set using: 
    • Current GPS location 
    • City, ST 
    • Postal address 
  • Access to full warning text of the alerts 
  • Google map showing warning area and your location 
  • Quiet time – to temporarily stop alerts during a specified time of day 
  • Status button to disable notifications (i.e., vacation stop) 
  • Regional map showing all active Mid-South alerts 
  • Free re-install if the app is deleted
For more information on StormWatch and StormWatch+, visit the MWN StormWatch web page.

For weather information for Memphis and the Mid-South, where and when you need it, visit on the web, on your mobile phone, download our iPhone or Android apps, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

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