I tweet a message along these lines a lot:
There's a slight chance of a few severe storms this afternoon. Have multiple ways to receive weather warnings if you're out and about today!
— Charleston Weather (@chswx) May 22, 2012
Despite @chswx’s tweeting when weather gets rough, it is best not to rely on social media as a sole source of severe weather info and instead treating it as a supplement to a well-balanced weather information diet. Having multiple methods of getting severe weather alerts is awfully simple and straightforward, especially for smartphone users, and could potentially save your life one day. (If you have a favorite smartphone app or alerting method, please add it to the list!) Some examples of reliable tools for getting weather alerts include:
- NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards: it stands the best chance of working when cell phones might not. Great for fast-moving situations, and one can be had for $20 at your local grocery store. Everyone — especially in hurricane country like we are — needs to have one. The only downside: They aren’t able to understand polygon-based warnings, so they will warn a whole county if a warning is issued even if only part of the county is in the warning.
- iMap Weather Radio: my personal favorite and one of my core alerting methods. $10 might seem a bit steep, but it is dead simple to use, very reliable (the alerts come through within seconds of the NWS forecaster broadcasting the warning), and even provides a 7-day forecast with radar. If you’re on the go, it can use your phone’s GPS to ensure it only alerts you when a critical warning is issued for your location.
- MyWarn: Similar to iMap Weather Radio with all-clear alerts and featuring a very simple interface. $12.99 right now; will move to a subscription-based model soon.
- Any local television station app: Search for WCBD, WCIV, or Live5News in your phone’s respective app store for their weather app. These apps will have similar alerting features that use your phone’s GPS and can also show live streams of weather coverage.
- The Weather Channel’s app: The Weather Channel, when set to alert, typically does a good job of giving you a heads up, though I’ve heard complaints that it can over-warn sometimes. Also, don’t put any stock in its attempts at telling you exactly when it will rain…I don’t hear of much, if any, skill with this feature.