Breaking News
More () »

This is when Wireless Emergency Alerts are sent to your phone

Since 2012, the emergency alert system has been extended to cell phones and used selectively for some severe weather alerts.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Receiving a severe weather alert in a timely fashion could be the difference between life and death.

When severe weather can produce “destructive or considerable” damage at your location, a Wireless Emergency Alert is automatically sent to your cell phone with language encouraging you to act fast. 

Unlike alerts sent to traditional NOAA weather radios and other weather apps, wireless emergency alerts are only sent for the most threatening of storms.

For example, the National Weather Service will issue a severe thunderstorm warning anytime a storm can produce winds greater than 58 mph or one-inch size hail. Such a warning would trigger weather radios and apps such as the WCNC Charlotte app.

However, the government's alert system on your phone will not trigger unless that storm is going to produce winds over 70 mph or hail greater than 1.75 inches.

You can stream WCNC Charlotte on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, just download the free app.

With more than 90% of Americans using cell phones, Wireless Emergency Alerts - or WEA for short - can be sent to your mobile device whenever you’re directly in the path of the storm.

WEAs use your location data to reduce false alarms. If you receive one of these alerts, it’s for your immediate location and you need to take action.

🌩️ If you like weather, watch Brad Panovich and the WCNC Charlotte Weather Team on their Emmy Award-winning Weather IQ YouTube channel. 🎥

WEAs are like a text messages. The first WEA was sent a decade ago by the National Weather Service for a flash flood warning in New Mexico.

In 2020, the format expanded from 90 to 360 characters thus allowing more life-saving information to reach the palm of your hand.

And Spanish language messages were implemented for cell phones set to Spanish.

Credit: WCNC

Here’s what you can expect on your phone: 

  • A special tone will sound. It sounds similar to an Amber Alert or the classic Emergency Alert System.
  • A message describing the hazard
  • And the action you should take

Because knowing what to do before, during, and after the storm can help your chances of survival.

Click here to sign up for the daily Wake Up Charlotte newsletter

You do not need to download an app to receive these alerts. They’re automatic and will also include Amber Alerts and federal emergencies. 

When you pair WEA alongside the WCNC Charlotte app, you can use our app to watch live severe weather coverage, receive alerts for multiple locations, and stay informed about the storm’s aftermath.

Contact KJ Jacobs at kjacobs3@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Before You Leave, Check This Out