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System error fails to send severe weather alert to Kent Co. cell phones

No Copywrite

Kent County residents woke to the sound of what many refer to as tornado sirens Tuesday morning, but no tornado warning was issued by the National Weather Service that would also trigger cell phone alerts

That noise is a familiar one to people who receive emergency alerts on their cell phones. But when a line of severe thunderstorms packing winds over 70 miles per hour crossed West Michigan, most phones stayed silent, while emergency sirens sounded outside their homes.

“National Weather Service had a system error that could not send out the warning or the information regarding the severe thunderstorm warning with damaging winds. They could not get that message out, so your phones did not receive that message.”

Scott Corbin is Kent County’s Deputy Coordinator of Emergency Management. He explains what the county decided to do in lieu of those phone warnings.

“So it was a decision on our part to activate those sirens in order to provide a level of awareness to the public that we had these destructive winds coming through the area.”

According to Corbin, in the event of a tornado warning – or – when wind speeds are in excess of 70 miles per hour, Kent County has the option to activate the sirens. The National Weather Service can also send alerts to residents’ cell phones, the two warnings complementing each other, but Corbin emphasizes that those sirens aren’t just for weather-related events. They can also signal a widespread chemical spill or fire.

“We always tell the public to go tune in to local TV and radio stations, use web-based services. But certainly, seek shelter first then find additional information about what those sirens are specifically going off for.”

We reached out to the NWS in Grand Rapids about the error that kept residents from receiving those severe weather alerts on their cell phones Tuesday morning but have yet to hear back.

Dave joined WGVU Public Media in November of 2023 after eighteen years as a Michigan Association of Broadcasters Emmy-nominated photojournalist and editor at Grand Rapids' WOOD TV8 and three years at WEYI TV25 in Flint, Michigan. As a General Assignment Reporter, Dave covers daily news and community events all over West Michigan.
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