Changing emergency dust storm warnings for Arizonans

Posted at 12:01 AM, Jul 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-16 09:39:55-04

The National Weather Service started sending new, targeted dust storm warnings this summer to cut down on unnecessary emergency alerts for Arizonans.


The National Weather Service rolled out the new polygon dust warning system for the monsoon. Forecasters said when a dust warning was issued in the past, most people with cell phones in the affected county received emergency weather alerts. Now NWS maps the area in immediate danger, creating a box-like shape similar to tornado warning areas. 


The agency is partnering with cell phone companies, which send alerts through cellular communication towers in the polygon area.  The goal is to only reach people who would be directly affected by the storm, cutting down on false warnings. 


"This can be life saving," said NWS Warning Coordinating Meteorologist Ken Waters in Phoenix. "Just in the last few days, we've had situations where the interstates have been shut down." 


Waters said people who receive the warnings on their mobile devices should take action immediately to prepare for the blowing dust, including not driving through low visibility areas.


"In some cases, you might not get a lot of notice on this, so if you get that warning, we want people to take it seriously," Waters said.