No large, wind-driven snowstorms were forecast to hit lowland Pierce County on Monday, but that didnt stop some residents from receiving blizzard alerts on their cellular telephones for the second day in a row.
Readers from Tacoma, Puyallup, Spanaway, Seattle, Hoquiam and other low-lying areas told The News Tribune that they received similar alerts Sunday afternoon despite a lack of a snowstorm forecast to hit the lowlands.
The alerts said, Blizzard Warning this area til 6:00 PM PST Mon. Prepare. Avoid Travel. Check media. -NWS, according to screen shots several people sent to The News Tribune.
The message, received about 5 a.m. Monday, seemingly referred to a blizzard warning issued by the National Weather Service for the Cascades.
National Weather Service meteorologist Liana Ramirez said Monday she wasnt sure why the alert was sent multiple times but had a few ideas as to why it was broadly received. The messages are issued by county, and counties and weather zones sometimes overlap, Ramirez said.
Some cell towers also serve multiple counties, she added.
Over in the Midwest, this is a very effective tool, but here on the Pacific Northwest side, its difficult, given the terrain, Ramirez said.
The alerts are sent as part of the national Wireless Emergency Alerts system, which started sending notices about imminent threats, such as extreme weather, in June.
Sundays alert was the first for Western Washington, according to the National Weather Service.
This is the first warning event (here), Ramirez said. Practice makes perfect in this situation.
The system is a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Communications Commission and wireless carriers.
All major cellphone carriers and hundreds of smaller carriers voluntarily participate, but not all phones are equipped to receive the alerts.
In addition to notifications of imminent threats, the system is designed to send presidential alerts and AMBER alerts.
A FEMA spokesperson was not available Monday afternoon to explain Washingtons multiple blizzard alerts.
Jack Anderson and his wife got the alert Sunday afternoon in Lakewood and again Monday morning, he said. Verizon Wireless is their provider.
The one (Sunday) kind of freaked us out, he said. Sounded like the emergency alert system that we get over the TV.
Thats likely because the messages are meant to complement the Emergency Alert System broadcast via TV and radio, according to FEMA.
Customers are not charged for the phone messages and can opt out of all but the presidential alerts. Instructions vary based on the provider.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268