Millions of smartphone users will soon begin receiving text messages about severe weather from a sophisticated government system that can send a blanket warning to mobile devices in the path of a dangerous storm.
The National Weather Service's new Wireless Emergency Alerts system offers a new way to warn Americans about menacing weather, even if they are nowhere near a television, radio or storm sirens.
When a warning is issued for a specific county, a message will cause late-model smartphones in that area to sound a special tone and vibrate. Beginning Thursday, the system will notify people about tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards and other threats.
Users do not have to sign up for the service. And people who prefer not to get the warnings can opt out of the system.