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Severe weather warnings to be sent directly to smartphones

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:28PM EST

The National Weather Service will begin sending severe weather warnings to smartphone owners in the path of a dangerous storm. The NWS’s new Wireless Emergency Alerts system will be able to warn Americans about impending weather, even if they are not watching television or listening to the radio. The system will notify people about approaching tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, flash floods, extreme winds, blizzards and ice and dust storms, the Associated Press reported.

Warnings will come in the form of a free text message that will be no more than 90 characters and will be sent to “late-model smartphones” that will then sound a special alert and vibrate.

“These alerts will make sure people are aware of any impending danger and provide them with the information needed so they can be safe until the threat is over,” said Amy Storey, spokeswoman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, the trade group that helped set up the system.

Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile will offer the service nationwide, while AT&T will only offer it in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon. AT&T said it has plans to add additional markets in the future. Apple will support the service this fall, although it is unclear if older iPhone models will be supported.