Wednesday, June 12, 2024

County addresses complaints regarding excessive weather alerts

Posted

Several storms have battered Hood County throughout the past few weeks featuring heavy rainfall and strong winds.

But while the severe thunderstorms have been of huge concern in the county, recent social media posts show that residents were more bothered by the high number of weather alerts sent out by the Hood County Emergency Management Office.

Alternating between alerts regarding a severe thunderstorm and a potential of flash flooding, residents received many text messages and phone calls during the afternoon of May 24 — leading to several social media complaints.

While some residents said they would rather have too many weather alerts than not enough, others complained of receiving as many as seven phone calls in one day.

As a result of the complaints, the Hood County Emergency Management Office released a statement on social media May 24, stating the office is aware of the frustration but wants to let the public know how weather alerts get issued.

According to the post, weather alerts — particularly ones that are severe such as flood, thunderstorm, and tornado — are automatically disseminated through the Everbridge system. Everbridge is a trusted leader in mass notification and allows officials to provide critical information directly to the public as emergencies happen.

“As you know from our previous social media post, when the National Weather Service issues an alert, Everbridge automatically sends it to those in the affected area,” Emergency Management Coordinator Margaret Campbell told the Hood County News. “Anytime a new alert is issued even if it’s for the same storm, you will get a new notification. This is primarily due to an upgraded alert (larger hail size, greater wind speeds, etc.). However, if the alert is updated (duration, counties included, etc.) it should not send you a new notification.”

Campbell explained that a new alert comes when new information is issued that can affect the way individuals prepare for weather. She said an increased timeframe will likely not change how you prepare for the weather, so a new alert is not issued. However, a hail size increasing in size from a half-inch to two inches will likely warrant different actions to be taken; therefore, a new weather alert will be sent out to the public.

Due to the increased number of alerts May 24, the office began working with Everbridge and the National Weather Service to determine the reason why so many alerts went out.

“We understand it’s frustrating when you’re being notified so frequently about the same storm,” the post read. “However, please understand that when a storm is evolving, new alerts are often issued, and our priority is to keep you as informed as possible.”

Campbell said after looking into the event May 24, it was determined that the number of alerts received directly correlated with the rapid development and changes occurring with the storm.

“Also, something to keep in mind is that this has been an unusually busy year for severe weather,” she said. “Texas has seen over 100 tornadoes just in 2024 (2023 only had about 50) and the majority of the days this year have had some sort of severe weather threat or hazard occurring across the state. All of this, of course, means more weather alerts, and while it's frustrating sometimes to get so many, our priority is to keep the community informed and allow them to have all the information they need to make the best decisions for the safety of their families.”

Those who have already signed up for Everbridge alerts can go into their account and adjust which alerts they would like to receive.

Campbell said while residents are able to adjust the settings on their account, it’s not as simple as only allowing one alert per day per storm.

"We don’t know how storms will develop, and we can’t predict the number of alerts that will go out with each storm,” she said. “However, we can certainly adjust your settings so that you only receive one form of communication (texts instead of text and phone call). Additionally, we have done some extra work on our end to try to limit the number of alerts that go out.”

Those who did not sign up, but are receiving alerts and do not want them, can reach out to the Emergency Management office via email at emergency.management@co.hood.tx.us.

To sign up for Everbridge weather alerts, visit co.hood.tx.us/942/Everbridge online and click the link that says “SIGN UP FOR EVERBRIDGE ALERTS HERE.”