Starting today, the National Weather Service (NWS) will send severe weather warnings to smartphone users in the path of dangerous conditions. The Wireless Emergency Alerts system will notify people of approaching tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, flash floods, extreme winds, blizzards and ice and dust storms by sending an up-to-90 character message to their smartphone. The system is only compatible with newer devices, and will not be available in all areas, but the NWS says that "millions of smartphone users" will start receiving messages soon. Apple intends to support the service this fall, but it's not clear whether the support will be limited to new hardware, or if all its devices will receive an update.
The service is free and users can opt out if they don't appreciate the weather spam. Greg Carbin, the warning coordination meteorologist at the national Storm Prediction Center tells the Associated Press that "even in those areas of the country where there's a lot of severe weather, the frequency with which you would be alerted is pretty low."