Weather text alerts fill phones across Maricopa County during monsoon storms

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- It was no ordinary text message. Monday evening, a series of weather alerts about flood warnings went out to to thousands of cellphones in Maricopa County. Once it sounded, many viewers said it sent them bounding out of bed.

On Facebook, viewer David Neylon wrote, "I got two [warnings] last night and startled both my wife and I!"

We took our questions about the alerts to Ken Waters with the National Weather Service.

"It's a new service and we understand that there are some things that need to be worked out," Waters said.

The program is called Wireless Emergency Alerts and it's rolling out nationally. It automatically sends out weather alerts, Amber Alerts and Presidental Alerts, which would warn of something like a terror attack, all for the area your cellphone is in. But there are some hurdles.

The program will eventually be in all cellphones, but right now whether you get them or not depends on your carrier and your cellphone model.

"Blackberrys, for the most part, and iPhone users aren't going to get them for the time being," Waters said.

Most of those who received alerts on Monday experienced hurdle No. 2.

"The problem we're seeing is we issue the warning for a small area and unfortunately those alerts are going to everybody in the county," Waters said.

Monday night's flash flood warnings were for the area of the Sunflower Fire, south of Payson, but it went out to all of Maricopa County. The National Weather Service said it's meeting with phone companies in hopes of narrowing down who gets what warnings.

"We're working aggressively trying to get these issues worked out," Waters said.

If you do not want to receive the weather and Amber Alerts, visit your provider's Web page for instructions on how to opt out.