So there I am at my computer, trying with some difficulty to set up two-factor authorization for my gmail account (the sticking point seems to be what I have to do to get it to work on my phone), when all of a sudden the phone makes a horrible loud noise, and a big scary popup appears warning me about an EXTREME ALERT.
Tornado Warning in this area til 10:15 PM EDT. Take shelter now. Check local media – NWS
Sounds serious. Even though it’s not even raining out at the moment. Tapping it, then asking for “more information” is not much more informative.
CMAE category: Met
Response type: Shelter
So naturally, not having a basement to hide in (this is South Florida, there are no basements) I turn to Google, searching for tornado and Miami-Dade, but I don’t find much at first. Eventually I get to a page at, of all places, the College of Dupage, which says it is located at 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn IL, and has has the text of an announcement from the National Weather Service, one for which I only later find the official site.
And it turns out that the tornado watch is real, but for areas well north of me:
BULLETIN – EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
949 PM EDT SUN AUG 26 2012
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS ISSUED A
* TORNADO WARNING FOR…
SOUTH CENTRAL BROWARD COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA…
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF…PEMBROKE PINES…MIRAMAR…
NORTHEASTERN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA…
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF HIALEAH…
* UNTIL 1015 PM EDT
* AT 947 PM EDT…NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
STORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO NEAR OPA-LOCKA…MOVING
NORTHWEST AT 45 MPH. %%
* THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR…
INTERSECTION U.S. 27 PINES BLVD…
AND SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES.
SEEK SHELTER INSIDE A STURDY BUILDING ON THE LOWEST FLOOR…AWAY FROM
EXTERIOR WALLS AND WINDOWS. GET UNDER A WORKBENCH OR OTHER PIECE OF
STURDY FURNITURE. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO COVER YOUR BODY.
TAKE COVER NOW IN A STURDY REINFORCED BUILDING. TORNADOES ARE
ESPECIALLY DANGEROUS AT NIGHT BECAUSE THEY ARE HARD TO SEE. IF YOU
WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE OR HEAR IT COMING…IT MAY BE TOO LATE TO GET TO A
SAFE PLACE! MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM OR HALLWAY ON THE LOWEST FLOOR.
LEAVE MOBILE HOMES AND VEHICLES FOR REINFORCED SHELTER. STAY AWAY
REPORT SEVERE WEATHER OR DAMAGE TO THE NEAREST LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY
OR YOUR COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT. THEY WILL RELAY YOUR REPORT TO
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST OFFICE IN MIAMI.
LAT…LON 2599 8055 2612 8039 2590 8018 2581 8027
TIME…MOT…LOC 0148Z 136DEG 40KT 2588 8027
I think this reveals two real flaws in the emergency warning system that is being pushed on to our phones (without opt-in by the way). First, if the alert-generating system can identify me by location as someone in the general area of the warning, why can’t it be more fine-grained and figure out that I’m actually several miles away from it? Second, I absolutely don’t see why the alert couldn’t have a hyperlink to the more detailed statement. Some day this is going to start a lot of unnecessary panic.