BOLLINGER COUNTY, Mo. – Wednesday morning’s severe weather produced a deadly tornado in southeast Missouri. The survivors credit their mobile alert system for giving them warning, allowing them to take cover in time. 

“I jumped out and I was freaking out. I was, like, ‘There’s a tornado! There’s a tornado!’ Yeah, within, like, five minutes we were in the bathtub,” Sheoby Davidson said. 

Sheoby’s mother said everyone in their family was scrambling for cover after getting the alert on their phones.

The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system is activated when the National Weather Service issues a tornado warning. Destructive thunderstorm warnings and higher-end flash flood warnings also trigger these alerts. 

“The technology has gotten good now where it can use our polygon where we draw the polygon for the tornado warning, and it knows that you’re in that polygon, so your cellphone will go off if you’re in the polygon, which has been a huge addition to the warning system, because now so many more people get the warnings immediately,” said Kevin Deitsch, the warning coordination manager at the National Weather Service office in St. Louis. 

These alerts are based on your GPS. 

“You’re driving and, say, you’re outside the tornado warning but you’re driving into it, once you drive into it, cross into that polygon, your cellphone will also alarm at that point,” Deitsch said. 

The idea is if you get one of these alerts, you’re in the storm’s path. 

“If you get one of those on your phone, you should certainly take action,” he said.