I have gotten a lot of calls, messages, tweets, texts,  voicemails, etc in the last few days with seemingly the same questions.   I compiled the most common ones I’ve received and wrote this…

QUESTION:   “How come I didn’t get an alert on my phone for the tornado warnings, etc?” 

ANSWER:  This is fairly new technology and it depends on your phone’s settings,  the type of phone you have,  and your cell phone carrier.    CLICK HERE for a link for more information directly from the NWS.

QUESTION:  “I got an emergency alert for a Flash Flood Warning for my area, but there is NOT one for my area…one county over,  but not for my county!”   

ANSWER:  This is just based on my own experience,  the emergency texts do not seem to be county specific, rather they are location specific.   I live in Dane Co,  but only 5 miles from the Iowa Co line.   I received an emergency alert text for a Flash Flood Warning for Iowa Co, despite the fact I was 5 miles into Dane Co.  Mother Nature clearly doesn’t care about invisible geo-political boundaries….emergency alerts about life-threatening weather situations in the general vicinity shouldn’t care about them either.

QUESTION:   “The Tornado Warning says it’s based on radar…so, there’s not really a tornado yet? What does that mean?”  

ANSWER:  The National Weather Service has the latest radar technology that tends to be very accurate in predicting tornadoes and “seeing” them on radar.  Obviously,  a report of a tornado on the ground is the best way to know where a tornado is,  but there are also specific things that are seen on radar…including rotation and “debris” from a tornado.    The FOUR tornadoes in Dane and Green Counties Monday night….all of them were based off of radar signatures.  I do not believe the NWS received reports of any tornadoes on the ground that night.  It was only after people started calling 911 and reporting their house fell over,  roof came off,  car flipped over into a field, etc.,  that it became clear there very likely were one or more tornadoes.    If people would NOT have heeded the Tornado Warning because it was “based off radar,”  I guarantee there would have been injuries or potential loss of life.

QUESTION:  How come the sirens sounded so quiet during the tornado warning? 

ANSWER:  I don’t know exactly when it was,  but at some point in the last 2 years, the NWS changed the way it issues warnings.  Previously,  if there was a funnel cloud in Sun Prairie,  but sunny elsewhere in Dane Co, the sirens would go off throughout the county,  and a tornado warning was issued for the entire county.

This caused people to:

1) panic unnecessarily if they were nowhere near the threat.

2)  become complacent after hearing sirens under sunny skies one too many times.

NOW, the NWS warnings are not county-specific,  rather, they are location-specific.  In other words,  if a tornado is in Mt Horeb, heading towards Fitchburg,  the only sirens that are going to sound are in, and close to,  the tornado’s path.  Sirens are super-loud for good reason.  There’s a good chance you may hear a siren in the distance that sounds really quiet.  That’s because the sirens in your neighborhood are not going off, because you aren’t in the warned area.

Regardless,  if there are weather warnings in your area,  you should pay attention to what’s up to make sure it’s not heading for you .

QUESTION:  Watch?  Warning?  What’s the difference?  (I seriously can’t believe I still am asked this question…sorry, but people REALLY should know this…just sayin’)

ANSWER:  A watch means conditions are favorable for inclement weather.  It means go about your normal business, but make sure you are weather-aware for when, where and what may happen weather-wise.    A warning means IT IS HAPPENING, or is SUPER-LIKELY TO HAPPEN RIGHT THIS MINUTE.   In other words,  stop what you’re doing  and move to safety.