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Worried about storm damage? New phone alert will warn you of ‘destructive’ weather

Your smartphone has many uses to make life easier, whether it’s related to work, school or your social life. Whatever use you get out of it, remember that it can also keep you aware of dangerous situations and weather conditions, giving you time to prepare or get somewhere safe.

The Citizen app connects users to a network that details crime, natural disasters and other issues that affect public safety. While an alert system can be helpful, the app’s developers are making some additions that may not be ideal. Tap or click here to hear Kim’s take on the matter.

You’ve seen emergency alerts on your phone. It could be related to fire, a missing person, kidnapped child or even a criminal on the loose. You may more commonly get alerts related to the weather. The National Weather Service (NWS) has announced a new “destructive” category to its list of alerts.

Here’s the backstory

NWS now has three categories related to hazardous conditions, which include tornadoes, hail storms, strong winds, lightning and flooding. Alerts will include these “damage threats” to better convey the severity of the weather. These tags will go into effect beginning Aug. 2.

At the top of the list is the destructive category, which indicates hail measuring at least 2.75-inches in diameter and/or 80 mph thunderstorm winds. Warnings tagged as destructive will automatically activate a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) on smartphones within the affected area.

A warning tagged as considerable includes 1.75-inch diameter or more hail and/or 70 mph thunderstorm winds. This type of warning will not activate a WEA.

A base thunderstorm warning is what you’ve been used to getting on your phone. These thunderstorms may have 1-inch diameter hail and/or 58 mph thunderstorm winds. There is no WEA for base storm warnings.

RELATED: Bad weather can strike at any time and you can’t put a price on preparedness. Tap or click here for a list of 18 items that will help in any emergency.

NWS says that just 10% of severe thunderstorms can be categorized as destructive each year across the nation. One example of a destructive storm was the series of Derechos (widespread straight-line winds) that hit Iowa in August 2020. Winds measured around 140 mph and damage was totaled $11 billion. Four people died.

Hurricane Laura was a Category 4 that hit Louisiana in August of 2020. Winds reached 150 mph and damages were placed at $19 billion. This storm led to 42 deaths.

Check your alert settings

Your phone likely comes with emergency alerts enabled, but you can check the settings and see what kinds are offered.

For iOS devices, go to Settings > Notifications and scroll down to the GOVERNMENT ALERTS section. From here you can enable AMBER Alerts, Emergency Alerts and Public Safety Alerts.

For Android phones, go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Wireless emergency alerts. From here you can see threats in order of severity as well as AMBER Alerts.

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