Weather radios: A faster, more sophisticated way to track severe weather

Not so long ago, when it came to monitoring severe weather, the warning process was a much lengthier one. Everything had to be typed out manually, and if you made a mistake, you had to start over.

It could take several minutes just to type the information into the system.

But thankfully, technology has provided the National Weather Service with the ability to issue a warning in seconds -- rather than precious minutes -- when a life-threatening storm is looming.

"We have our traditional warning that we issue. It talks about where we expect the storm to be, where the storm is going, how fast it's moving, and some of the cities affected," explains Michael Lewis, a representative of the National Weather Service.

"That warning goes out, automatically gets picked up. It is transmitted via the normal transmission sequences, which would be AP, through the EAS system, any of the communication systems that are out there, television, radio," Lewis elaborates. "That information goes out immediately, instantaneously, and one of those tools is NOAA weather radio."

Here's how it works: Once that warning is sent from the warning generator computer, it goes straight into a computer that translates the text of the warning into a computerized voice.

From there, it goes into the transmitter computer, which sends this signal to the correct transmitter tower for the counties to be warned.

Finally, that tower sends out a signal that is picked up by the specially-built receivers in your weather radio, causing the alarm to sound, lights to flash, and the information to be displayed on the screen.

At that point, it's your turn to act.

"When the alarm goes off, seek appropriate action," Lewis advises. "That's what we're really after. Our mission is to save lives."

Severe weather can happen any time of the day, and even in the middle of the night.

That's why we encourage every home to have a weather radio.

You can still pick one up at a reduced price at various Walgreens stores in Michiana.

Midland Radio, the manufacturer of these radios, has a training video on their website. To watch that video, click here.

For a list of county codes for your weather radio, click here.

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