By Chris Spears
DENVER (CBS4) – If you don’t have the free CBS Denver Weather app on your phone, you’ll want to download it after reading this story.
When a severe thunderstorm moved into Colorado Springs during the afternoon of August 6, a countless number of people were caught outside, including dozens of visitors at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
Multiple people were injured and a few animals were killed as large hail pounded the area.
At the nearby Broadmoor Hotel, dozens of guests were caught on the golf course and forced to run for their lives. The link below shows a video of golfers racing for shelter in their golf cart. (caution, it contains foul language)
U.S. WIRELESS EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM
If you rely on your cellphone to warn you about impending severe weather, make sure you understand Wireless Emergency Alerts and the information this system provides.
Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA’s, are emergency messages sent by authorized government authorities through your mobile carrier.
If received at the right time a WEA can help keep you and your family safe during an emergency.
According to the FCC, since the program was introduced in 2012, more than 33,000 WEAs have been issued about dangerous weather, missing children and other critical situations.
But when it comes to dangerous weather, only selected warnings are sent to cellphones through the program.
FEMA’s website says the following weather alerts are issued through WEA’s.
- Tsunami Warnings
- Tornado and Flash Flood Warnings
- Hurricane, Typhoon, Dust Storm and Extreme Wind Warnings
Severe Thunderstorm Warnings ARE NOT issued via the WEA system.
The National Weather Service in Pueblo recently released a timeline of watch and warning information for the storm that hit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the area around it.
A Severe Thunderstorm Watch was issued at 1:05 p.m. on August 6 for the area including Colorado Springs. Shortly thereafter, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued at 1:19 p.m. for a severe storm just northwest of the zoo.
As the storm moved closer a new warning was issued at 1:45 p.m. that included the zoo. Large hail started falling between 2-2:20 p.m. in the area.
Those caught outside had at least 15 minutes lead time between being placed under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning and receiving the large, destructive hail, assuming they were depending on something other than a Wireless Emergency Alert.
While the Wireless Emergency Alert program plays a very important role in keeping Americans safe, we can’t stress enough how important it is to also have multiple sources for receiving weather information, including apps on your phone and a NOAA Weather Radio at home.
Our free CBS Denver Weather App will relay all weather warnings issued by the National Weather Service and will even alert you to other things including lightning or heavy rain in the area.
Meteorologist Chris Spears travels weekly in the CBS4 Mobile Weather Lab reporting about Colorado’s weather and climate. Check out his bio, connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @ChrisCBS4.